Another Earth

17 Aug

Title: Another Earth
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Mike Cahill
Writers: Mike Cahill and Brit Marling
Starring: 
Brit Marling, William Mapother
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, disturbing images, some sexuality, nudity and brief drug use
Runtime: 
92 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
61%

I had been interested in watching Another Earth for a long time now, I remember hearing the buzz as it became a breakout hit at this year’s Sundance Festival and that really got my interest, then I got to know what it was about and saw the first trailer and clips that started coming up, and thought that it was something right up my alley, something I would have no trouble appreciating and enjoying the hell out of. And I really did, I mean, it wasn’t the masterpiece I was privately expecting, which means The Tree of Life and the last Harry Potter film remain my only two perfect-score films of the year, but it was an undeniably great film that I’m a huge supporter of.

Because, you see, Another Earth really is extremely great in how it manages to catch your attention with that one incredibly compelling image and thought: the fact that another planet that is just huge and looks much like our own has appeared in our skies. In that sense, yes, I guess it’s a science fiction film, which is what drew me in to the film in the first place, but Another Earth is much more than just a sci-fi movie, it deals with all these metaphysical aspects that really dictate the mood of the film in the most terrific of ways. Because we get this second Earth looming over us, never going away, and it’s apparently populated by an exact replica of us, like a parallel universe of sorts. And Another Earth really does a beautiful job at sort of examining what would happen if that actually happened, and how the interest in the meaning of this new Earth being there, and its effect on our own Earth, would come a distant second place to our interest in these sort of doppelgangers we have over there. And thus the inevitable soul-searching begins, we begin to think about our lives, and how it would be to meet another us, and to see how different a life he or she might have from yours, for better or worse.

And that question is what drives Another Earth, the prospect of another you, and it’s really a question that director Mike Cahill uses brilliantly to set an atmospheric and melancholic mood that is pretty incredible. At its core, this is the story of a young woman who’s dream of becoming an astrophysicist comes to an end after her carelessness causes a bad accident, and her mistake begins to haunt her to the point in which she develops a relationship with the man who’s life she shattered with her mistake. And this personal story is the one that we have playing out against the far grander and more sci-fi-ish backdrop of this mysterious planet appearing in our skies. And it works so damn well you won’t even know what hit you.

I also really liked that the script, written by Mr. Cahill along with Brit Marling, who’s also the star of the film, doesn’t really bother all that much with going into how just plausible this all is, it doesn’t really meddle all that much with the scientific side of it all, it just goes straight to all these more personal and deeper questions. And Ms. Marling, it must be said, is simply tremendous here. Seriously, I just loved how she played Rhoda, a woman who on the night the new Earth is first heard of is accepted into the best astrophysics program in the country and parties too hard, and on her way home, looking out the window to see the new planet, she crashes into another car, killing a mother, a son, and leaving a father in a comma. Ms. Marling is phenomenal here, and I really want to see her rise to the top and be in all sorts of great movies with all sorts of great people. As of right now she has Arbitrage in post-production, the feature-length debut of writer-director Nicholas Jarecki alongside Tim Roth, Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon and, more importantly, The Company You Keep, Robert Redford’s next directorial effort, which also happens to star Ms. Sarandon. So yeah, if she keeps surrounding herself with talented people I’m sure she’ll do just fine.

As for the concept of doppelgangers, I liked how it was used to drive this whole project and the entire notion of their being another Earth and another you. And if you’re reminded about the films of Kryzsztof Kieslowski when seeing this one you’re not alone, they are certainly influences that are present here, especially when comparing this one to Mr. Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique, the whole approach to the marriage of the magical with the mundane is evocative of those films, and I certainly think Mr. Cahill took on a lot of influences like that, and the juxtaposition of them is what ultimately made it possible for us to get this truly unique vision we get.

I applaud Another Earth like you have no idea, and everyone really should go out of their ways to watch this film, as Mr. Cahill has crafted an excellent film on a reported $200’000 budget which really is a tremendous feat, one he accomplishes because he suggests much more than he directly shows, and because we have this very human story told with emotionally raw performances anchoring everything else, it really works here. And yes, it may all be a bit too ‘indie’ from the handheld camera to the score (which I loved), but it  works in the end because that raw aesthetic really does go along tremendously well with many of the film’s themes, and approaching such a complex and ambition concept in such a way was a definite risk for Mr. Cahill, but he and his terrific cast came up firmly on top. Imaginative as hell, provocative in a very cool way and totally immersive and mesmerizing, if you’re done with the big-budget extravaganzas of the summer, go watch this one, and then join me in waiting for Ms. Marling to become the star she’s imminent to be.

Grade: A-

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