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Director: Mike Cahil
Writers: Brit Marling, Mike Cahil
Cast: Brit Marling, William Mapother, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, DJ Flava, Meggan Lennon, AJ Diana, Jordan Baker, Bruce Winant, Flint Beverage, Bruce Colbert, Paul S. Mezey, Ana Valle, Jeffrey Goldenberg, Joseph A. Bove
Synopsis: Rhoda Williams, a bright young woman accepted into MIT's astrophysics program, aspires to explore the cosmos. A brilliant composer, John Burroughs, has just reached the pinnacle of his profession and is about to have a second child with his loving wife. On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate Earth, tragedy strikes and the lives of these strangers become irrevocably intertwined. Estranged from the world and the selves they once knew, the two outsiders begin an unlikely love affair and reawaken to life. But when one is presented with the chance of a lifetime opportunity to travel to the other Earth and embrace an alternative reality, which new life will they choose?
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for disturbing images, some sexuality, nudity and brief drug use
What would you say to yourself if you found out that there was another you out there?
Since Jodie Foster's infamous "Contact", I have never seen another movie that portrayed the travesty of internal conflict within a character; while cleverly disguising itself as a science fiction film again....until now... I must admit that I never even heard about this movie up until a few weeks ago, but I knew I had to see it once I heard about it. As some of you may know, science has always fascinated me when it comes to space exploration. Granted, it's never driven me to the point where I'd want to study the stars someday, or become a member of NASA. However, I have always been fascinated by the many discoveries we find in space these days. Often pondering like anyone else if there's life out there somewhere. If there is life, then what are they like?
Are they just like us? What if we found another Earth that was identical to our own? Of course to make matters scarier, what if this new Earth we discovered was in perfect synchronization of our own? What if there was perhaps another you on this planet? What if this person from the other Earth shared your exact same appearance, personality, memories, likes and dislikes? What would you say to your other self? What could you say? And what if the synchronization of both worlds stopped upon the discovery of each other? What do you think the results would be? To be honest, I don't know. However, "Another Earth" not only plays on these very same concepts beautifully, but it's arguably one of the best science fiction films of the year.
Sure, it won't garner the same level of audiences that saw "Transformers: Dark of the Moon", but it definitely carries something that most science fiction films lack these days....substance. Unlike most science fiction films that will often use special effects to distract it's viewers from how poorly it's directed and/or written, "Another Earth" tends to focus more on story content if anything else; while asking internal questions about ourselves like how do we move on after we've done something so horrible? What if we ended up hurting someone that we'd grow to love so much, but could never tell them?
The story starts off with a teenage girl named Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling), who just gets accepted into MIT. Like all high school girls, Rhoda has many aspirations and dreams, as she hopes to one day to be able to study astronomy. Upon her acceptance, she throws a wild party like most young under age girls do to celebrate. After partying to her heart's content, she drives home while listening to the radio. On the station, the news reports that NASA discovers another Earth within our solar system. Apparently, as it's revealed later on in the movie, this new Earth is close enough to us to where we can see it in the sky during the day, yet it never has any significant impact on our solar system or environment from being so close. Perhaps this new Earth exists within another parallel universe, and what we might be seeing is nothing more than a portal into another dimension. Who really knows? However, the movie never bothers to explain this perplexing dilemma, as it's focus is geared more towards a personal level with the main characters' internal conflicts about life.
To get back to the rest of the story, Rhoda becomes distracted upon hearing the news about another Earth existing that she ends up getting into a horrible car accident. Somehow, she manages to survive, but the people she crashes into aren't so lucky, as she ends up killing a child and a pregnant woman during the crash; while sending the husband, John Burroughs (William Mapother), into a coma. After a few years in prison, Rhoda becomes disgusted with her very existence. As the tragic events haunt her mind constantly, she's unable to forgive herself for what happened that night. This inevitably leads her to wanting to take a job as a janitor for her old high school; in spite of her own case worker telling her that she's capable of much more. However, the accident has made her socially inept, as she feels that doesn't belong anymore in a normal society because of the horrible incident that she caused.
Eventually, she takes it upon herself to learn about what happened to John after the accident, as she learns that he used to be a famous composer before the crash. However, she also learns that he's finally out of the coma, but he's been retired for a good while. Needless to say, this prompts her to look him up to apologize for what happened that night, but when she sees him for the first time, she loses her nerve. Instead of apologizing like she originally intended, she lies to him about working for a maid service company. Offering him a free trial cleaning service, as she feels that maybe...just maybe...she can make his life a little bit better since the incident. Reluctant at first, John inevitably agrees to the free trial, and ultimately hires her to come to his house on a daily basis to clean. Although he always writes her a check to "Maid in Heaven" (the company she lies about working for), she never cashes it at all. No, she merely rips it apart, as she's not interested in being paid to clean for him. No, as I said earlier, her only hopes is to try to make him happy, as she feels it's her personal responsibility to make his life better in some way.
Inevitably, it doesn't take long before he tries to get to know her on a more personal level, as both have been wallowing in loneliness since the accident. However, the two of them eventually become really good friends, and they end up falling in love with each other. In her mind, she keeps telling herself that she's dedicated to make his life feel better, but that doesn't stop her from asking if she's really doing all this to make herself feel better. As she falls more in love with him, the guilt eats at her inside constantly.
Then, she hears news about a contest being held by NASA, where it asks people to write a five hundred word essay on why they feel they should be reserved a seat on the shuttle heading to the new Earth. According to the contest rules, the winner will be chosen to go up into space to visit the new Earth alongside the astronauts. Granted, I know that sounds far fetched, but if you can buy the fact that another Earth could be close enough for us to see in the sky, while having no effect on our environment whatsoever, then you shouldn't have any trouble buying into the logic of this contest existing either. Besides, as I said earlier, this film tends to focus more on the human aspects of what the characters are going through rather than the science fictional stuff.
Without giving too much more away, she enters the contest as she wishes to escape from her life on Earth, but she doesn't want to leave John either. Madly in love with him, she ponders if he would even still love her if he knew the truth about her, or would he reject her as she fears? I can't really say without giving it away, but you'll have to find out for yourself what happens from here. What I will tell you is that one of the best things about this movie is that it plays upon the ideals that life can often take on variations of itself. To quote "Shakespeare", "The choices we make dictate the lives we lead." This message plays true in this movie, as it constantly begs audiences to wonder what if Rhoda wasn't drunk that night? What if she had been listening to a different radio station? Or how would her life be if that horrible accident never happened at all? Sometimes life isn't always as easy as we'd like to think it is sometimes. As most people can tell you, one mistake or choice can sometimes spiral a person's life in an entirely different direction from the other.
This leads us to the perplexing question of what if there was another one of us out there in space? What would we tell ourselves after making such a horrible mistake? And most of all, how can we learn to forgive ourselves if such an incident happened to any of us? Indeed, "Another Earth" may not be your traditional over the top CGI heavy science fiction movie, but it's definitely one of the best out there. Not only does the story hook it's audience from beginning to end, but it leaves a lasting imprint on your psyche, as it forces us to ponder many of life's questions about ourselves. Forcing us to wonder how our lives would be different if we never would've done things a certain way, or made this mistake along the way.
Of course, it does help that the film features strong performances from Brit Marling and William Mapother; as they shared a strong chemistry together onscreen that not only oozed the levels of intimacy and compassion whenever the roles required it, but it also carried the heavy emotional distraught whenever the story needed it. Indeed, calling their performances great in this movie would be deemed an understatement to say the least. However, what amazes me even more is that Brit Marling not only did a wonderful job starring in this movie, but she also had a hand in writing the script as well. According to most critics, she's deemed a newcomer to acting, but if "Another Earth" is an example of what we can expect from her in the future, then I think it's safe to say that we can expect bigger things from her.
In the end, I think the only real problem that I had with this film was the unscientific plausibility of another Earth being so close to us, and having no effect on our environment whatsoever was a little hard to swallow. Then again, the film's purpose was never meant to be a true science fiction film, as it's more of a deep psychological movie that begs us to question the many paths our lives can take; while disguising itself as a science fiction movie.
Overall, I'd have to give this movie a three and a half out of four. It definitely won't appeal to most science fiction fans that often crave the CGI heavy emphasis that most films of it's genre resonate, but it'll definitely offer you a deep thought provoking story that'll leave a deep imprint on your psyche. If you're looking for a different type of science fiction movie out there, then I'd highly recommend it.