If you were expecting “Another Earth” to be a sci-fi thriller, you may be surprised to find a quiet portrait of humanity. The story revolves around a young woman named Rhoda Williams ( Brit Marling) , who has obsessed over the stars since she was a small child. The revelation that a second earth has been spotted near the moon fills her with excitement. She finds herself drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
Director Mike Cahill shows us the world through her eyes, brilliantly without a single word from her character for at least the first 5-10 minutes of the film. This sets the tone for this thought provoking, and poignant film. The quiet is suddenly and violently interrupted when her star gazing combined with alcohol causes a car accident. She awakes to find she has crashed into a family of 3 causing casualties.
We catch up years later as Rhoda is leaving the prison. The second Earth is still big news, and she learns that it may be an exact replica of ours, including every human. Although she has served her time she is still imprisoned by her guilt. “I always felt Rhoda was a tricky character,” says Marling of her visceral approach. “We start out knowing she’s done a terrible thing and the question was how then to create her as a woman you really believe is trying to deal in some humane way with what has happened, knowing she can never really change it. I didn’t want her to be self-pitying or wallowing in grief. I think she truly believes what she did will never be forgivable, yet there had to be a focused, almost warrior-like energy in her desire to recover in some small way, to do something right.” She adds, “I kept in mind that she had this bright, beautiful life before everything changed. Now she has to rise out of the ashes and become somehow stronger and more empathic than she ever would have been before.”
Rhoda seeks and finds the only crash survivor John Burroughs (William Mapother of “LOST”) alone and looking lost. She tries to summon the courage to apologize but fails when she finally comes face to face with Burroughs. A contest is being advertised to win a a trip to the new earth, and she enters it. She begins to wonder if his family could be alive and well on the other earth, and what her other self might be like.
This is a beautiful story of childlike wonder, guilt, sacrifice, second chances, and forgiveness. I highly recommend you see this touching film “Another Earth’.
Another Earth opens in theaters Friday August 12, 2011.