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.