Lisa Marie Is Disappointed With Another Earth (dir. by Mike Cahill)

As I’ve mentioned on this site a few times, I was really excited about seeing the new independent sci-fi film Another Earth.  Well, I finally saw it and wow.  What a disappointment!

Another Earth is a film about an intelligent teenage girl (Brit Marling) who gets a scholarship to M.I.T.  She goes out to celebrate and while drunkenly driving home, she hears a report on the radio that a new planet has been discovered.  Looking out the window of her car, she spots the new planet while, at the same time, smashing into another car and killing the wife and son of composer William Mapother.  Mapother is put in a coma and Marling ends up getting sentenced to prison.

Four years later, Marling is released from jail.  She gets a job working as a janitor in her old high school.  She also tracks down Mapother, who has come out of his coma and has no idea that Marling is the girl who killed his family.  Through a couple of plot contrivances that makes less sense the more you think about them, Marling becomes Mapother’s maid.  Though Mapother is, at first, surly towards her, he soon falls in love with her because otherwise, nothing would happen in the movie.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the new planet is actually a mirror Earth!  Wow, isn’t that exciting?  Well, no one on “Earth 1” seems to be all the excited about it.  Don’t get me wrong — they talk about it a lot and we got a lot of monologues about the possibilities of a mirror Earth and how we’ve all apparently got a double on this other Earth but still, everyone’s just kinda like “Oh, that’s neat.”  Anyway, Marling wants to go to the new Earth to see if the alternate her is doing any better than her.  Luckily, there’s a Richard Branson-type billionaire who is having an essay contest to win a chance to take a civilian flight to the new Earth.  We’re told that this civilian flight will be the first to land on Earth 2, which I guess can only mean that the Earth 1 equivalent of Barack Obama really did a number of Earth 1’s version of NASA.

Another Earth isn’t necessarily a terrible film but it certainly is a disappointing one.  The film is essentially a collection of indie film clichés that are all held together with an intriguing premise.  Unfortunately, the only thing intriguing about the finished film is thinking about how great it could have been if director Mike Cahill and screenwriter (and star) Brit Marling had actually bothered to explore any of the film’s issues beyond a surface level.  Mapother does a good job playing his surly role but he has next to no chemistry with Marling and you never, for a minute, believe in their relationship.  When Marling isn’t lying to Mapother, she’s bonding with a blind janitor from India who only speaks in philosophical one liners.  Why is the janitor in the film?  Why does he suddenly decide to mentor Marling?  Why does he drink bleach?  There’s also a really embarrassing scene where Marling talks on the phone with a guy doing a really over-the-top imitation of Richard Branson.  Director Cahill offers up endless montages of Marling looking pretty and sad as she wanders around aimlessly and he’s got the whole shaky cam, zoom lens thing down but he doesn’t seem to understand that images are empty without some sort of honest emotion behind them.  

That said, the film does have a great ending, an ending which hints at the film that Another Earth could have been.

8 responses to “Lisa Marie Is Disappointed With Another Earth (dir. by Mike Cahill)

  1. Couldn’t disagree more with a lot of what you said. I was incredibly happy that they left all the Earth 2 stuff in the background and decided to focus on the drama between the two characters. Also we really can’t assume what other thought about the other planet when we only ever see Rhoda’s or John’s feelings about it. I also thought their relationship felt sincere, they had a chemistry that worked even though it might not have felt ‘real’. It was never meant to be very strong to begin with, under any other situation the two would never be with one another, but they find something in each other that they themselves are feeling, they sort of fill each other’s void which is enough if it means being happy, even if not perfect. The janitor was a bit much, but Mike Cahill mentioned at a Q&A I attended that like how Earth 2 is nothing but a metaphor, the janitor was more to have someone else in the film who mirrored Rhoda in that he was someone who also experienced immense pain at one point in his life. To do what he did with the bleach was a literal representation of cleansing himself of any senses, to disconnect himself with the world because he could no longer live with some terrible thing he seemed to have done once in the past, something Rhoda can connect with and I think they have a very good scene together in the hospital where she writes ‘forgive’ on his hand, something she has to learn to do herself. There are quite a few cliches, but nothing that stood out and within the rest of the film I thought they worked. What made me love it so much was really just how admirable the whole thing is given the VERY small budget and the lengths they went to to get it made. Using friend/family houses, small local band for the score, Cahill’s mother played Rhoda’s mother and shooting in the school she taught at, Mapother received no pay, minimal but realistic effects but a small production company they knew, almost getting in trouble for shooting outside a prison without permission…no matter how I or anyone else feels about the story I think it would be hard to not at least be impressed with what they made with what they had, which wasn’t a lot. It is one of the better examples in recent years of people with a passion for film-making and a story they loved getting together and actually making it even when they didn’t necessarily have the resources to do so and for some (like myself) somehow still managed to make a decent science fiction story with a refreshing focus on its characters.


  2. I applaud Cahill and Marling for bringing their vision to the screen but that, in itself, didn’t make the actual experience of watching the film any more compelling.

    I don’t have a problem with them leaving Earth 2 in the background. That was probably a pretty smart move. What I have a problem with is that Earth 1 was was a just a collection of well-worn indie film stereotypes and empty montages.


    • Just to clarify:

      You’re more than welcome to disagree with me and you’re even more welcome to explain why you disagree with me in the comments section. What you are not welcome to do is insult me just because you disagree. Obviously, you really got something out of Another Earth. So, why not pretend to be an intelligent human being and use your comment to explain why exactly you think the film is “brilliant?” Why do you instead resort to personally insulting me, a person you do not know and who you will never know? I mean, if you feel so passionately about this film, why don’t you defend it instead of leaving a comment that makes you look like an ass (or, at the very least, like an insecure little troll?)

      By the way — “Go call Elvis?” Is that because my name is Lisa Marie? So, you basically just make fun of people’s names, is that what you do? Is that how you talk about film? Is that how you try to defend this film that you call “brilliant?” I mean, it’s this great film that I’m unfairly attacking and all you can do is make fun of my name?

      I review films and I give my honest opinion about the films I see because I love to talk about film and I love to hear from people with different opinions. And my response would have been a lot more polite and appreciative if you’d actually bothered to explain why you love the film as opposed to just trying to insult me or make accusations concerning the type of person that you assume I am. But you didn’t bother to explain anything, did you?


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