Another Earth



By Gary Murray


Starring Brit Marling and William Mapother

Written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling


Directed by Mike Cahill


Running time 92 min


MPAA Rating PG-13


Selig Film Rating Cable


Science fiction films fall into many different forms.  There are the space operas of Buck Rogers and Star Wars, monster films like The Thing and Alien along with comedies such as Galaxy Quest and Space Balls.  Seldom are there art-house fair that dabble in the realm.  There are films like Moon and Dark Star but they don’t happen that much.  The latest to take on the avant-garde is the melodramatic Another Earth. 

Written and directed by John Michael (with writing help by Brit Marling), the story starts in the near future.  Rhoda (Brit Marling) is a brilliant teen with an open future in science, wanting to be an astrophysicist.  On the night that a second Earth is discovered coming to this planet, she has a drunk-driving accident.  There are deaths.

We fast forward a few years later and Rhoda is now a legal adult and done with the legal system of juvenile incarceration.  Freed, she finds that finding employment is extremely difficult.  She takes a job as a janitor in her old high school.  She has no future but realizes she must confront her past.  At the same time, scientists are getting ready to try and make contact with the other planet, called Earth 2.  Over everyone on the planet, this second world hangs over their collective shoulder.

Rhoda finds John Burroughs (William Mapother) a composer who has had his entire existence shattered by Rhoda’s drunk-driving.  Not able to cope with the loss, he hides himself at the bottom of a bottle.  She goes to his house to apologize and ends up offering her services cleaning.  The fact is that she cannot bear to tell him her secret that involves them both. 

Eventually, the two begin an awkward relationship while the world waits to find out if Earth 2 is a mirror reflection of the original Earth or a chance to start over.

William Mapother is one of these actors one sees mostly on television, playing crazed characters with major quirks.  Here he gets to be a more normal person which stretches his range. Carrying heartbreak with each sigh, Mapother delivers a touching reading that truly moves the heartstrings. 

Brit Marling finds the right beat for her downtrodden character.  Rhoda is a devastated individual looking for salvation.  Wearing the weight of the world on her slight shoulders, she is hoping for a second chance in a world without second chances. 

The problem with the film is that it has not enough story and way too much pathos.  The film just drags along giving the audience morose bits to chew on while waiting to dump an entire load of hurt upon everyone involved.   It sits in the stagnation of its premise and never finds any joy in any frame of the work. 

Another Earth was a break out hit from the Sundance Film Festival but I found the film just a bit too cold.  I was expecting something along the lines of Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, a 1960 sci-fi exploration of a planet discovered on the far side of the sun.  The final version of Another Earth is much more of an allegory of second chances than a science fiction film.  Earth 2 is not just another planet, but another opportunity where events could have happened differently.   I get the symbolism; I just didn’t enjoy the movie. 


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