If another Earth existed, a mirror version of our own world, the home to another version of you and me, would you want to visit it? If there was any chance that your “other you” had made different decisions along the way, would you want to meet and speak with him or her? These are the questions asked by ‘Another Earth’.
Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) has had an amazing life. She was given a gift that most people will never receive. But along the way, she made one tragic decision that took the lives of a woman and her child, leaving behind a widowed husband and a child-less father. For Rhoda, the slightest chance of escaping to another existence free of that pain and guilt is the only string of hope she has left to hang onto.
Knowing that she ruined a fellow blessed man’s life, Rhoda is completely torn. After a failed suicide attempt, the possibility of escaping to another Earth is the only thing keeping her going. If that hope dies, it’s safe to assume that she will too. The next time she gives suicide a shot, it will not be a failure.
After entering an essay contest to win a trip to “Earth 2,” Rhoda finds the most uncalled-for inspiration to ease her mind and pass her time. She pretends to be with a local maid service and offers to give the widower a free trial house cleaning. As she begins to clear away the physical clutter in his home, the two form a genuine bond of friendship, and the color returns to both of their lives. They once again begin to smile and laugh for the first time since the accident. Rhoda is faced with a heavy moral question: Does she tell him that she was at fault for killing his family and ruining his life, or does she continue living the lie, keeping the mutually therapeutic friendship alive?
As you can tell, despite carrying a PG-13 rating, ‘Another Earth’ is a sobering film. It has an intriguing concept that will quickly reel in its audience and establish solid emotional connections. Instead of simply watching Rhoda go through this experience, you take her hand and walk through it with her. Marling and fellow lead actor William Mapother (‘Lost’) do a superb job of making sure you connect with them.
Upon exiting the press screening of ‘Another Earth’, I was dissatisfied with the ending – in particular, the last ten seconds before the credits roll. However, after some reflection, what I initially took as a last-minute zinger ended up being a large chunk of meat to chew on and digest. As proper science fiction does, co-writer and director Mike Cahill’s ending is “real” science fiction. It offers something to think about, something to talk about and hash out with friends. In some ways, when you begin to put some thought into it, the last ten seconds are the most crucial part of the film.
If you enjoy thought-provoking, down-to-Earth unique indie films, then do not miss ‘Another Earth’. It’s another fine Sundance-discovered gem.