' Cinema Romantico: Another Earth

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Another Earth

What would you say if you had the opportunity to talk to yourself? Not carry on a conversation inside your own head which, potential insanity or not, we all do, no, I mean if you had the opportunity to talk yourself - another you, so to speak. What would you say? I'd say: "Nick, you dumbass, why didn't you ask out that Starbucks barista?" I'm not being flip. Wouldn't we want to ask ourselves about the choices we've made? And why we made them? Because, of course, different choices means an alternate route in life. Who knows where we might have wound up?


"Another Earth" takes its title from what the film calls Earth 2, an identical blue, lush, live-giving planet that mysteriously appears one day right alongside us. And it is Earth 2 at which Rhoda (Brit Marling), a 17 year old that has just been accepted to MIT, is longingly, distractedly gazing up at from the window of her moving vehicle when she crashes that same vehicle into another one bearing a family of three. The father, John (William Mapother), survives, but his wife and young son do not. As a juvenile, Rhoda is sentenced to four years in prison. Her identity is not revealed to the man whose family she killed.

The film flashes ahead to the end of her prison term and to a point where it has been realized Earth 2 is essentially our "mirror", a place populated by.....what? Our dopplegangers? Or who knows what? Rhoda wants to know, and between taking an ultra-crummy job as a janitor at her old high school (yikes) she submits an essay for a contest to be seated aboard a rocketship that in time will be bound for this other earth to see what waits.

But she also seeks out the man whose life she ruined, finding him in a state of complete decay, and rather than coming clean poses as an employee for an out-of-town cleaning service and rouintely shows up to re-organize his house (and, in a sense, re-organize him), perilously drawing closer.


That last part is the stuff of dozens of films. That first part is the stuff of old school sci fi. The absolutely amazing part is how director Mike Cahill, who edited himself and wrote the script with Marling, has crafted something that consistenly comes across fresh despite its ingredients. Filming with hand-held murkiness, serving up numerous shots of Marling walking - just walking - that nonetheless come across quite - to quote Paul Schneider in "Elizabethtown" - slow and soulful, "Another Earth" is like a Sci-Fi Kitchen Sink Drama. It thankfully spurns any scientific explanations for this second (first?) earth, merely employing its strange existence to explore themes of loss and just how much ability in these persnickety lives of ours we have to truly make our own choices.

That last shot is jaw-dropping but tricky. Initial appearance might make it seem like the twin brother of the wide open as a New Mexico sky conclusion to "Meek's Cutoff", leaving us with many more questions than answers. I beg you to re-consider. I beg you to re-consider the events in the handful of scenes leading up to it. And I beg you to tell me it's not a gorgeous expression of free will.

10 comments:

Vancetastic said...

Yeah, I love this movie. Ranked #4 for the year.

Not much more to add.

Castor said...

You know I loved it too :) It's a very peculiar, soulful piece of filmmaking.

Nick Prigge said...

Peculiar and soulful. I like it. It IS peculiar, but in the best way possible.

Daryl said...

I saw the preview for this when it first went online and really wanted to see this movie. Thank you for reminding me about it.

Nick Prigge said...

I do what I can, Daryl. I mean, let's be honest, you will completely pick it apart for its "scientific inconsistencies" but......

......maybe not?

MeganMoonStruck said...

yeah! A movie Daryl and I both want to see!

Dan Stephens said...

I still haven't seen it but it sounds fascinating.

Nick Prigge said...

It is fascinating, but in such a low key, hypnotic way.

alleyesonscreen said...

I've really been wanting to see this film, especially since I keep reading good review after good review for it. Nice review, Nick.

Nick Prigge said...

Thank you. Do make a point to check it out. It's really very unusual, even for all the familiar beats it hits, and leaves you with a lot to think about.