Thursday, June 14, 2012

Another Earth

Directed by Mike Cahill and written by Cahill and Brit Marling, Another Earth is the story of a young woman who remains haunted by an accident that has shaken her outlook on the world. After discovering a planet that looks like Earth, she ponders if there is someone like her in that planet. Starring Brit Marling, William Mapother, Jordan Baker, Robin Lord Taylor, Flint Beverage, and Kumar Pallana. Another Earth is a very interesting sci-fi drama from Mike Cahill.

Four years after an accident that left two people dead, Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) has just been released from prison as she remains entranced by the image of a planet that looks exactly like planet Earth that is above in the sky. Unable to capitalize on her chance to enroll in MIT due to accident four years ago and refusing to interact socially. Rhoda takes a job working as a janitor at a local high school though many claimed she’s overqualified for the job. Still, it allows Rhoda to keep her mind away from things as she still ponders about the man named John Burroughs (William Mampother) who had survived the accident she caused.

Wanting to meet him and apologize for what she did, she goes to his home where she sees the depressed man at his home where she claims to work for a cleaning service. John lets her clean her home as a friendship starts to grow where the two talk about Earth 2 and other things. Though Rhoda wants to remain cautious about getting too close, things do intensify but also complicated due to the guilt that Rhoda is carrying. When Rhoda receives word about an essay contest that she entered that will take her to see Earth 2, she would make a decision about her growing relationship with John as well as the possibility of what is out there.

The film is about a young woman dealing with the guilt of a car accident that killed a man’s family as she is entranced by the appearance of another Earth. While it’s more of a dramatic film with some sci-fi elements, it is all about this young woman dealing with guilt and the idea that a planet could give her the chance to see if her life mirrors to what is happening to her or is it different over there. Screenwriters Mike Cahill and Brit Marling create a lot of these ideas about another world where people wonder if there’s a chance for a do-over or they’re seeing mirrors of themselves.

That is part of the focus on the story as it’s driven by this guilt-ridden young woman who had a lot of promise going for her only for this planet to arrive and change everything. The first two acts of the film start off strongly since the narrative does follow this young woman trying to figure out how to tell this man that she was the one who ruined his life. Of course, the narrative would require how would this woman would tell this man what she’s done where things do get messy in the third act. Largely because the film becomes a romance of sorts where it dwells into conventionality that leads to this expected moment where the result isn’t badly executed but doesn’t do enough to make it more powerful as it should’ve been.

Mike Cahill’s direction is definitely visually-entrancing for the way he creates compositions with moods to capture this woman’s anguish. The film opens with a scene of Rhoda partying and having a good time where it then leads to her looking at this blue glowing dot in the sky. The prologue is quite powerful as it then leads to this more dramatic narrative where Earth 2 is always appearing in the sky. Cahill’s direction includes a lot of amazing close-ups where he can say a lot but do it with such simplicity in the framing. A lot of it includes some grainy camera work from Cahill as he serves as the film’s cinematography to help create moods to let the drama play out as well in the editing that he provides where the jump-cuts and montages help play to the moodiness of the first two acts.

Cahill’s approach to the drama is also quite restrained until the third act where melodrama is expected but not handled in such a great way. The ending of the film is among one of the most frustrating elements depending on how one will interpret it. Yet, it does raise more questions about what Rhoda was looking for in that other planet. Despite the flaws the in the film’s third act, Cahill does make a compelling sci-fi drama that is willing to ask big questions.

Production designer Darsi Monaco does excellent work with the look of Rhoda‘s room in the attic to exemplify the simplicity that she craves for as well as the messiness of John‘s home to display his troubled mood. Costume designer Aileen Alvarez-Diana does nice work with the costumes as a lot of it is casual to display the development of the film‘s central characters. The visual effects work of Adam and Darren Fanton is superb for the way Earth looks up in the sky where it doesn‘t look cheap nor expensive for a low-budget film. Sound designer Ryan M. Price does wonderful work with the intimacy of the places that Rhoda encounters including the saw performance scene at an auditorium. The film’s score by Fall on Your Sword is a fantastic mix of ambient electronic music and low-key classical music ranging from piano pieces to somber string cuts.

The casting by James Calleri and Paul Davis is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it include memorable appearances from Jordan Baker and Flint Beverage as Rhoda’s parents, Robin Lord Taylor as Rhoda’s young brother Jeff, Meggan Lennon as John’s wife, and Kumar Pallana as an old janitor Rhoda works with. William Mapother is great as the depressed John Burroughs who displays a lot of restraint as a man who feels lost as he’s slowly coming back to life as a man and as a classical musician. Finally, there’s Brit Marling in a marvelous performance as the guilt-ridden Rhoda as Marling creates a performance that is mesmerizing for the way she deals with what she’s done. Notably as it’s a character who is flawed but also trying to find some kind of answer as it’s a true breakthrough for the newcomer.

Another Earth is a very good sci-fi drama from Mike Cahill that features terrific performances from Brit Marling and William Mapother. While it’s a very flawed film due to a messy third act, it’s also an ambitious one for a film that only cost $200,000 to make that dares to ask big questions. Notably as it chooses to infuse sci-fi ideas into a low-key dramatic setting. In the end, Another Earth is a film that is worth watching from Mike Cahill.

I Origins

© thevoid99 2012


Unknown said...

I look forward to more movies wrtten by Brit Marling. She is making interesting and smart science fiction movies, and I really appreciate that. My only complaint about the movie was the length. This could have easily been a short film and have been just as good if not better. Great review. I love all the tidbits and facts you add to each review.

thevoid99 said...

This was a flawed though interesting film. I appreciate the ambition though I felt it fell apart in the third act. They could've done more to make it less obvious.

Still, I'm looking forward to what she and Mike Cahill will do.

Chip Lary said...

I ended up liking this film quite a bit more than I expected. I put it in my Top 10 of 2011. Sure, the science is completely inaccurate, but it's not really a science fiction movie anyway, despite the premise. As you pointed out, it's about these two damaged people. Because of this, I didn't have any problem with the ending of the film.

The second Earth is really the biggest metaphor for second chances ever put on film.

thevoid99 said...

@Chip-the film is in my honorable mentions of 2011 so it's not going to be in any final list of the best films of that year.

Still, I think it is a good sci-fi in terms of ambitions although it's really more of a human drama.

Stevee Taylor said...

I actually really enjoyed this film, even if it didn't go to the places that I hoped it would. I'm in love with Brit Marling now, though - what a talented young woman!

thevoid99 said...

@Stevee-This was a surprise considering the mixed reviews it got although I had a few issues with it towards the end.

Marling is a true talent and I'm eager for what she does next.

thevoid99 said...

@Madison-check my profile. You'll see my email. What is your website?

Unknown said...

Another Earth was a fascinating film for many reasons; I loved the characters and the actors who played them. The film covered some pretty deep questions; our human soul, captured the ongoing nagging question of "are we alone", the chance to go to an Earth where your problems disappear for a time. I watched this film late one night during a business trip for Dish, how I wished I could snap my fingers, and have some intellectuals with me to discuss the film. Fortunately, my next trip, I will be traveling with an intelligent colleague. He has already agreed that as long as I've gone to Dish Online and have the movie, gone to the hotel store and gotten the popcorn, he's there.

thevoid99 said...

@Sadie-While I feel the film fell short in the third act, it at least had the guts to ask big questions. It's a film that needs to be seen more as I think it's a truly compelling sci-fi film.