On the night a new planet is discovered in our solar system, a young woman causes the accidental death of an entire family. Released from jail four years later, she tries to find a way to forgive herself, even going so far as to track down a survivor of the crash. But when she gets the opportunity to escape to this other earth, she sees a chance at starting a whole new life.
is an ambitious slice of indie sci-fi from American director Mike Cahill
, who also penned the script with leading lady Brit Marling
. Indeed, there’s a sense that much of the principal photography included a minimal crew and a single performer, grabbing shots where they could and using sparing CG to sell the reality of the rapidly approaching planet.
And it works – Cahill and co conjure up this alternate world brilliantly, using different media to give the story scale and a roster of naturalistic performers to sell the story. When Rhoda complicates matters by approaching a survivor from the crash she caused, there’s a realistically chaotic sense to her attempts to atone and the relationship that grows between her and William Maypother’s John is certainly unique.
Those looking for a true sci-fi film might not find their needs met here – Another Earth
is a slow mover and spends little enough time focussed on the second planet. The premise instead serves as a frame for a drama about forgiveness and escape, whether it’s possible, or even fair, for someone to flee from such a terrible act. The accident has stopped Rhoda’s life before it has even begun and her penance could end up hurting John even more.
Ambition and a decent concept will only take you so far, and Another Earth
seriously starts to drag about the hour mark, as increasingly portentous voice over recurs, seemingly to pad out the running time. More time could have been spent on the complex relationship or in investigating a story essential theory proposed by a scientist but instead we’re treated to more shots of Rhoda wandering around and a poorly handled dramatic moment.
The cast is at least more able that you might expect on a mere $200,000 budget. Marling carries much of the weight of the film effectively, though at 27 she looks too old for the early scenes and it’s hard to tell if her monotone delivery is always intentional. The films only real star is William Maypother
, who you may remember from a recurring role on Lost
. It’s a little jarring to see him here but he’s watchable and intense, even if the beats of the relationship aren’t always believable.
As Cahill’s first dramatic feature, Another Earth
is a commendable attempt to craft a sci-fi story with big ideas rather than big spectacle. And the premise is good but can’t quite escape the feeling of being an extended short.