These days in cinema, if something different makes it to the theaters, a natural intrigue to chew on something out of the ordinary will venture into the viewer’s mind. And that’s the feeling one will have while watching the 92 minute Another Earth. And a small portion of the story is just what the title states.
Scientists have discovered a planet that is an exact replica of ours. Earth 2 is a mirror image and it’s as visible in the sky as the sun and the moon. Actually, it’s right on top of us. But that’s just the symbolic backdrop, for the focus of this story is fixated on two souls who have dealt with tragedy.
On the night Earth 2 was announced to the world, high school student Rhoda Williams (co-writer Brit Marling) is gazing up at the new planet. As she wonders about the possibilities of a new world, her personal world collides with Yale professor John Burroughs (William Mapother). Their “meeting” transforms both their lives as Rhoda has to serve four years in prison while the brilliant musical composer and former family man becomes a recluse in a rural home outside of New Haven, Connecticut.
Upon her release, Rhoda returns home and instead of using her above-average intellect, she takes a job as a janitor at her old high school. Since it has been four years when Earth 2 was discovered, advancements have been made where a millionaire mogul has created a space shuttle to travel to the new planet. He even puts up a contest on his web site where the person who authors the best essay will win a seat on the shuttle. Rhoda goes back-n-forth debating on whether to enter the contest to possibly win a chance to see the planet she is constantly gawking at every day & night.
While she is debating on checking out Earth 2, Rhoda decides to visit the man whose life she changed four years ago, with the goal of apologizing. Nervous and unsure, she poses as a cleaning service to which the now drunken-slob that has become John Burroughs, hires her. A friendship begins to form and both their lives slowly start to improve for the first time since the major setback occurred. Problem is, Rhoda can’t bring herself to reveal who she truly is until a universal decision (pun intended) is placed in front of them.
This type of story – minus the Earth 2 angle of course – has been done before, but it usually ends up being a surprise to the audience. Obviously, everyone knows the deal, which is why the subtle Earth 2 planet serves in adding a symbolic depth to the story. So although interest levels are perked and the performances are exquisite to watch, the technical portions of the flick are by default the only elements that could hold this sad drama back.
Knowing the result so to speak, there had to be proper catharsis established between the characters. Director and co-writer Mike Cahill gets the job done (depending on how deep the viewer takes this), but it could be a tough sell to the audience based on the imposed pacing of this story. In other words, the timeline on-screen may move too fast for the audience to be all-in on the emotional level that the filmmakers expect them to embrace. Extending this by twenty minutes or so may not be the answer, but the script needed to take it the characters one step further prior to the foreshadowed reveal.
Other than that technical quirk, the choice of cinematography for this dreary tale set in the winter can show the raw emotion of human nature. Through the lens, this kind of resembles a documentary meets a thriller, even though this piece emulates the former. And the set designs will set the tone if the broken characters fail to do so.
Overall, Another Earth adds a different spin to a tale about piecing your life back together. The word “different” came up a lot in this review and that adjective is what makes Another Earth worth a look. If you enjoyed films such as 2009’s Adam, then this should stimulate your mind. The rest of you – who are not fans of existential thinking (closing sequence) – will be yearning for more details about Earth 2…which you will not get.
Another Earth is rated PG-13 and opens in the Tampa Bay market today.