Another Earth: Are Second Chances Possible? (2011)

Posted: April 19, 2012 in Drama, Sci-Fi

On the night of the discovery of a mirrored Earth, Rhoda Williams gazed up at the sky, taking her eyes off the road. John Burroughs and his family were sitting in their car looking up as well. In a moment, their cars and their lives collided, leading to the loss of John’s wife and son, as well as the incarceration of Rhoda. Four years later, she is released and returns home. Having given up on attempting to return to school, she takes a job at the local school as a janitor. Wallowing in the sorrow of the events of that night, she looks up John’s contact information after she learns that he survived the crash, woke up from a coma and has returned home. She struggles to tell him that she was responsible for the crash and instead makes up an excuse to offer him a free house cleaning with Maid’n Haven cleaning company. Though resistant, he allows her into his home and invites her to continue cleaning each week. While they develop a relationship, Rhoda continues to get intrigued by a contest to win a ticket to the second Earth and submits an essay to the contest site.

Starring: Brit Marling (Rhoda Williams), Matthew-Lee Erlbach (Alex), William Mapother (John Burroughs), Meggan Lennon (Maya Burroughs), AJ Diana (Amos Burroughs), Jordan Baker (Kim Williams), Flint Beverage (Robert Williams), Robin Taylor (Jeff Williams), Rupert Reid (Keith Harding), Kumar Pallana (Purdeep), Ana Kayne (Claire), Diane Ciesla (Dr. Joan Tallis), Luis Vega (Federico)

In a performance that mimics the feel of Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, Brit Marling has a consistent sadness and mystery to her character’s personality. Marling’s short moments of happiness are almost completely overshadowed by the pain she exhibits from her character’s mistake and her inability to manage both her ability to speak up about the issue with John and allow herself to move on. John, played by William Mapother, starts with a fairly traditional, content demeanor with his family but is clearly destroyed by the loss of his wife and son. The relationship that he develops with Marling allows him to find something to motivate his attempts to start living again. Though the film is focused mostly on these two characters, the list of supporting actors includes Kumar Pallana (Purdeep), Meggan Lennon (Maya Burroughs), AJ Diana (Amos Burroughs), Jordan Baker (Kim Williams), Flint Beverage (Robert Williams) and Robin Taylor (Jeff Williams).

  

Mike Cahill developed a story that appears to have a sci-fi twist but is much more focused on the human condition. Rhoda’s life before the accident was carefree. Her acceptance to MIT led to a party with her friends, which put her in an intoxicated state when she got into the car. After her release from prison, she felt as though she had to punish herself for the results of the crash. Unable to comprehend the enormity of the effect on John, she felt a desire to attempt to admit her error to him. After she was accepted into his home to clean, she felt less and less able to admit to her involvement in the loss of his family. Their relationship continued to deepen and guide them toward a romantic relationship. With the possibility of losing it if she admits to her original intentions of coming by his home, Rhoda makes the difficult decision to continue to hide her secret, at least until her entry into the contest lands her a spot on the shuttle to the other Earth.

  

The film’s focus is much more themed on the story of pain and love between Rhoda and John, but the sci-fi element of the second Earth spans the length of the film with questions of other versions of ourselves and believed impossibilities. Though there is never a trip to the other Earth, a twist at the end of the film helps to extend the uncertainty of what the experience would be like to interact with another version of oneself. Rhoda initially enters the contest for the trip to the second Earth for a combination of curiosity, a desire to escape her pain and, later, a chance to see if her mirror image experiences and understands her predicament. John never seems to understand her interest to go to the other Earth, as the amount of loss he feels causes him to believe that seeing the other version of himself would be detrimental to his psyche.

While the concept for this film is rather intriguing, the lack of a trip to the other Earth and the dreary atmosphere maintained throughout the story makes the film feel much longer than its actual runtime. The ending, though slightly predictable, is one of the better quick surprises that poses a whole new set of questions.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

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