Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another Earth

Directed by Mike Cahill.
2011. Rated PG-13, 92 minutes. 
Brit Marling 
William Mapother 
Jordan Baker 
Flint Beverage 
Robin Taylor 
Matthew-Lee Erlbach 
Rupert Reid 
DJ Flava

It’s just been discovered that our beloved planet Earth has a twin. What’s more is it’s suddenly close enough to be visible in our sky. Young MIT student Rhoda (Marling) is so fascinated by the news she gazes up into the heavens while driving. On this particular night, she’s been doing some drinking also. Neither move is very smart, especially for someone who was accepted to the prestigious school at the tender age of 17. Unsurprisingly, she has an accident. She doesn’t have just any accident. Her faux pas results in the death of a mother and child. The family’s patriarch is left in a coma. Rhoda goes to jail.

Still guilt-stricken and withdrawn when she gets out four years later, Rhoda agonizes over a way to apologize to John (Mapother), the man who recovered from his injuries only to find his family had been taken from him. Rhoda also enters a contest to win a trip to “Earth 2” as its gotten even closer during the time she was incarcerated.

Like Melancholia, Another Earth isn't much concerned with the science in its fiction. It is more interested in using its premise to explore the human condition. It does so without the pending doom of the former, but still treads in some pretty murky waters. Along with her guilt, Rhonda is confused and embarks on a misguided attempt at redemption. With each of her steps down that dark path, we cringe. We know what she doesn’t: no good can come of this. We yearn for her to figure a way out of the hole she not only digs but deepens for herself. Our instinctual reaction to everything she does is to ask “How’s that gonna work out?”

As simple as our line of questioning is, it doesn’t lead to any easy answers. The ones Rhonda seems to come up with hardly seem right, this includes the one she’s most happy with. It doesn’t work out quite the way she wants. In fact, it provides us with the type of abrupt ending that may take a moment or two to “get”. Be warned that if you don’t get it, you may dismiss the movie, entirely. The same goes if you came in expecting a laser and light show. Another Earth is sci-fi for people who aren’t into sci-fi. The entire film takes place here on this Earth. There are no invading intergalactic armies nor displays of futuristic technology. This is the character study of a troubled person and a darned good one.

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