Monday, September 5, 2011
ANOTHER EARTH (2011)
Directed by Mike Cahill
Where & When: Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA. August 30, 2011 4:30PM
"Another Earth" wants to be a grand, thought-provoking story about loss and redemption with a sci-fi twist but instead is only able to manage to be a low-budget, fairly routine, and slightly disturbing drama
The film begins with a tragedy as Rhoda (Brit Marling), a gregarious, intelligent young woman, is leaving a party one evening. She has had a little too much to drink but drives home anyway. Rhoda hears news that another planet has been found that could sustain human life but as she take her eyes off the road to stare at this new discovery, she crashes into a car, killing an expectant mother, her young child and leaving the father in a critical condition.
After serving four years in prison, Rhoda has become glum and withdrawn, with her plans to go to college to study astrophysics now over. She keeps to herself, not wanting to deal with people, so she gets a job as a custodian at a high school and works with a blind, elderly man who doesn't speak. Rhoda is having great difficulty trying to find a way to move on with her life or even if she should continue living but her interest is piqued by an essay contest for an opportunity to win a trip to the new planet, now called Earth 2, which we have communicated with and seems to be an exact replica of our own Earth. Fascinated by the idea, she is inspired to write a completely honest entry on why she wants to go.
After a chance sighting of John Burroughs (William Mapother), the only survivor from the car accident, Rhoda now wants to apologize for what she has done as she was unable to while he was in a coma for months after the incident. She finds out where he lives but after she gets the nerve to knock on his door, Rhoda backs down and claims to offer a free trial cleaning service. John was a successful music composer but after losing his family, he was left broken-down, depressed, and spending each day drinking heavily.
Against better judgement, Rhoda begins working for him without revealing who she actually is. The two slowly develop a friendship that inspires John to create new music and opens Rhoda up to feel and laugh again. This soon leads to inevitably more tender feelings between them and after Rhoda wins the contest, John is happy for her but doesn't want her to go which leaves her to face several complicated and difficult decisions.
"Another Earth" poses some intriguing ideas, such as, if Rhoda actually went to this parallel planet, would it truly be exactly the same and could it be dramatically altered by her presence there but Mr. Cahill, (who also did cinematography, edited and produced) because of his budget, wasn't able to fully explore this theme so the film doesn't have much to offer beyond a thin and unremarkable melodrama. I know that Rhoda wanted to make amends but I'm pretty sure she could have found a smarter way than causing this poor man even more pain by not revealing that she is the one responsible for killing his family until long after she sleeps with him.
The only real highlight of "Another Earth" is the discovery of a new talent as Ms Marling, who also co-wrote the screenplay, manages to give a moving performance with little dialogue and with the use of her very expressive face. I'm sure this film will be just enough of a calling card to lead to other more promising opportunities for this young actress.
"Another Earth" is never able to soar as many of the deeper ideas that it touches are never fully developed which keeps this film sadly Earthbound.