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Another Earth – film review

January 3, 2013

ANOTHER EARTH

The grass is greener.

another earth

Directed by Mike Cahill. Written by Mike Cahill & Brit Marling. Produced by Hunter Gray, Mike Cahill, Brit Marling and Nicholas Shumaker. Starring: Brit Marling and William Mapother. Running time: 92 mins.  

I have long been fascinated with the idea of parallel universes. The idea that there might be multiple versions of me out there (and not just me – but everyone I know). My initial exposure to the concept came when I first saw the 1969 Gerry Anderson film Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun on television when I was a boy. In that particular film, a second Earth is discovered in the same orbit as us, but on the opposite side of the sun. A manned mission sent to this second Earth soon discovers it is an exact duplicate of our world – albeit a mirror image – all writing is backwards and people’s organs are on the wrong side of their bodies. And just like Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (although by no means as hokey) – this $200,000 Connecticut-lensed indie sci-fi drama also concerns the discovery of a second Earth.

Newcomer brit Marling plays Rhoda, a bright young college graduate with a keen interest in cosmology. Rhoda’s promising career (she is accepted into MIT) is derailed after causing the deaths of a music professor’s family in a traffic accident while drunk at the wheel. Released after four years in prison, Rhoda seeks out the music professor, John, whose life (unknown to him) she has destroyed and begins a friendship which ultimately leads to romance. Meanwhile, a new planet has appeared which is revealed to be an exact duplicate of our own Earth. When a Richard Branson-style billionaire entrepeneur announces a space flight to this other world and Rhoda wins a seat on the flight, she decides to use this opportunity to repair the damage she has inflicted on John’s life and make amends for her sins.

another earth - marling-mapother

Like the best indie sci-fi films of recent times – Primer, Moon, Love and Monsters – Mike Cahill and Brit Marling’s Another Earth is a film concerned with concepts and ideas – rather than hardware and explosions. Co-producer, co-writer and lead actor Marling cites La Jetee and 12 Monkeys as representative of her favourite kind of science fiction, “To me great science fiction is all about putting a lens on something human and showing you a perspective you haven’t seen before.” At its heart, Another Earth is really about each of us accepting our own lives for the way they are, even though they may contain moments of tragedy and disappointment (in the way perhaps we realize we may never attain the lofty ideals of perfection to which we aspire). As Brit points out: “The version of you which has experienced a more imperfect life may be a more substantive existence … more enlightened.” Or in other words – a more fully-rounded person – which is very much a Buddhist way of thinking.

cahill-marling

Writer-director Mike Cahill with co-writer, co-producer, actor Brit Marling.

For a debut feature, Mike Cahill’s direction is nicely understated (he also served as editor and cinematographer) – with his orchestration of the blossoming romance between Rhoda and John having a definite authenticity and ring of truth about it.

William Mapother (best known for a recurring role in TV’s Lost) – is solid as John.     But it is Marling who absolutely owns this movie. She is a joy to watch and effortlessly nails the complexity of her part. She is clearly a talent we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

another earth - brit marling

2012 was an amazing year for memorable film music with Angels & Airwaves’ score for Love being the stand-out. The eclectic score for Another Earth by Brooklyn-based ex-pat British musicians Fall On Your Sword is also very impressive – very reminiscent of Clint Mansell’s minimalist scores for Aronofsky’s Pi and Duncan Jones’ Moon.

another earth - house

The film has been criticised in some circles as diverting from the laws of physics with regard to the second Earth’s proximity not affecting our world. In the film’s defense I’d like to remind these killjoy cynics of the unwritten rule (in relation to sci-fi movies) which allows for the transgression of one established scientific law in order to serve the plot – so long as it is kept to one law being transgressed and one law only. As the proximity of the second Earth in this particular story is purely for aesthetic reasons (to create a sense of awe and wonder in the viewer) – I don’t see it as being a major issue here.

More mood piece than mind-bender, Another Earth is a well-made and insightful sci-fi movie with an authentic message and is a terrific example of what can be achieved with limited funds, enormous enthusiasm, sound execution and good ideas.

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes right-brained people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.

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7 Comments
  1. gregory moss permalink

    The film’s official website can be found at:

    http://www.foxsearchlight.com/anotherearth/

  2. Michelle permalink

    Scene from the movie http://vimeo.com/32468922

    • gregory moss permalink

      Thanks for posting this link, Michelle. 🙂

      I completely forgot to mention this amazing interlude in my review. To set the scene … John (William Mapother) serenades Rhoda (Brit Marling) by playing a piece he’s composed on the musical saw. The actual piece was composed and performed by renown musical saw player Natalia Paruz:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natalia_Paruz

  3. Great movie 🙂

  4. I have to say this film was one I wanted to see for ages but never did. Then eventually I watched it (recently) and it blew me away. You summed it up in your closing summary, its amazing what can be done with limited funds. If the script is good, the idea solid, you can do a lot. And this film does a heck of a lot with a fantastic idea, then takes it into a whole different direction, yet weaves it all back together nicely.
    Brit Marling is brilliant, she is amazing in this film, plays it perfectly. I’m keen to see “The sound of my voice” now.
    Great film, great review.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Thanks Peter! I love this film so much and highly recommend it – and I am so looking forward to seeing anything Brit Marling does from here on in. 🙂

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