Another Earth (2011)

Another Earth

Another Earth is one of those slow-paced, arty, independent films, that looks like it’s been developed specifically for a film festival.

The story has two main threads. Rhoda Williams is a high school student who has just been accepted to MIT. She has a promising future but her world falls apart one night when, after a night of drinking, she drives and crashes into the Burroughs family, killing the wife and son, and leaving the husband in a coma.

The second thread, and the event that causes her to lose concentration that night ultimately resulting in the tragic event, is the news on the radio that scientists have discovered a planet moving towards Earth which seems to be an exact replica of our own planet. This planet is quickly dubbed Earth 2.

The main character, Rhoda Williams, is played by Brit Marling, who also co-wrote the film’s script with first-time director Mike Cahill.

The husband and father that Rhoda has left in a coma, John Burroughs (William Mapother), is a successful composer and professor.

Both Rhoda’s and John’s lives are devastated by the crash, but four years later, events transpire to bring them together, in what becomes the focus of the film.

I love the ideas presented in this film. The plot focuses on the human relationships and the tragedy. The sci-fi element is a back-drop, which becomes more intertwined towards the end. Ultimately, however, it is the lack of focus on the world-changing event that lets Another Earth down. It’s hard to care about the characters and relationships when in the background they’re playing news footage of what could potentially be mankind’s first contact with other lifeforms; the big idea is far more interesting and engaging than the human tragedy.

Another Earth has a tremendously slow pace. It plods along as if it’s purposefully trying to tell you it’s a film that you must take seriously. I don’t mind slow-paced, independent films built around tragedy. One of my favourites of this type is In My Father’s Den starring Matthew Macfadyen, but Another Earth is not even in the same league as In My Father’s Den.

The idea of another planet Earth is compelling and brings up many interesting questions. Also, the background scenes of Earth 2 in the night sky along with the moon look really good, but to go along with this film you need to suspend logic and ignore the laws of physics. There are some serious holes in the science. For a start, forget all you know about gravity.

In general, it’s worth a watch but the concept is far better than the delivery.