Review: Another Earth / Director: Mike Cahill / Screenplay: Brit Marling, Mike Cahill / Starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother / Release Date: Out Now
Science Fiction concepts have and can be used to tell some very human stories. Recently Lars Von Trier used an end of the world scenario in his portrayal of depression in Melancholia. Inception is very much a film about grieving and moving on and Contact is about self-discovery. I think Another Earth is about accepting responsibility but it’s hard to say, the film seems too in love with its own sense of self importance and its unique idea that any message gets lost in the pretentiousness.
The film begins with promising MIT student Rhoda (Brit Marling) getting wasted one night and whilst drink driving, spotting the emergence of a new Earth-like planet in the night sky. This distraction leads to her wiping out the family of John (William Mapother) and leaving him in a coma. Four years later, Rhoda is released from jail and gets a janitor job in the local school. After the energetic opening this is where Another Earth slows right down. The planet is still there in the sky, and it’s learned that it is an exact copy of our planet, and is even populated by the same people living here. We hear about this through radio and television broadcasts. This is all just white noise however as Rhoda has started to pose as a contracted cleaner for John who mopes about in his run down shack in the countryside. Ill-advisedly Rhoda and John get close, John not knowing that this is the lady responsible for the death of his family. Around the same time a competition opens up to take part in the first manned mission to ‘Earth 2’ and Rhoda enters. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree in storytelling to see where this is headed.
There is nothing wrong with the central idea at the core of Another Earth; it’s a fascinating idea to think of another exact copy of our planet down to the last detail suddenly appearing in the galaxy. It’s an idea full of possibilities which sadly are not explored to their fullest. Director Mike Cahill is much more concerned with getting in as many slow motion shots of Brit Marling moping around in a hoodie as possible. There really isn’t much to this story, where you should be fascinated and gripped by the possibilities and where it goes, instead much of Another Earth is predictable and forced.
The film is well acted though and has some good performances that are well judged despite the floaty camera work. Cahill is good at framing a shot of one of his miserable protagonists against the background of the new planet in the sky and this seems to be his main passion. Despite lack of focus William Mapother proves again he is much more than just the cousin of the world’s biggest star and Brit Marling is fully justified in her label as the new indie 'it girl'.
I feel like this film should have justified a 1000 word long discussion on the themes and meaning inherent in the wonderful imagery that Mike Cahill gives us. Sadly Another Earth doesn’t justify this level of discussion; it barely registers and is mostly harmless. Director Mike Cahill shows promise but must work with a better script if he is ever going to become more than just another mediocre indie director.