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Another Earth: A Slow Burning Sci-Fi

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Another EarthI saw Another Earth at the State Theatre the other day, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was directed by Duncan Jones, helmer of 2009’s Moon. Or maybe Henry Joost, director of the 2010 documentary Catfish.

Like those two movies, Another Earth is creepy, mysterious, and takes its time telling the story. Most sci-fi flicks have some amount of action — a giant robot perhaps, or a wild ride through space in a hunking heap of metal perilously close to bursting into flames, sending pieces rocketing off towards the stars willy-nilly. But that’s not Another Earth.

Oh, it’s a sci-fi, there’s no question about that. There are two earths, and it’s discovered that the other earth is exactly the same as our earth. As in the same people, the same events, the same places, everything. But that’s not the real story. The real story revolves around a young girl named Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) who after a drunken night out, drives her car head-on into another vehicle, killing a a boy and his mom, and putting the dad into a coma.

Jump ahead four years and Rhoda is released from prison. Though she has a brilliant brain, she now finds herself sweeping floors at a school and creepily stalking the guy she’d put into a coma four years earlier. John Burroughs (William Mapother, a.k.a. Tom Cruise’s cousin, in case you were wondering) is a mess. Once an acclaimed musician, he now spends his days drinking, doing prescription drugs, and lying on the couch probably wishing he was dead.

When these two lost souls cross paths, it changes both of their lives forever. So you can see — it’s a sci-fi that doesn’t play like a sci-fi. It plays like a drama with the creep factor of that other earth sitting out there in space, causing the residents of our earth to wonder if they’re going to attack us or leave us be.

It’s a really thought-provoking film, made even more interesting by the fact that there were only two of us in the theatre that day, both sitting in the balcony minding our own business but feeling a little weird about being the only two people there.

But the best part is the ending. Of course, I won’t tell you what happens, but let’s just say it makes me yearn for a sequel so I can find out what happens after the end credits roll and what that last scene could possibly have meant. I have some theories. If you’ve seen the movie, leave your own theories in the comments below and we’ll gab about it.

Another Earth is directed by Mike Cahill and rated PG-13 for disturbing images, some sexuality, nudity and brief drug use. It also won a couple of awards at Sundance this year — Special Jury Prize for World Cinema – Dramatic and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.

Other Reviews of Another Earth:

Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle: “In emphasizing poetry over plot, mood over mechanics, Another Earth fails to answer the most pressing question of all: Umm, why haven’t the tides been affected?”

Anthony Lane, The New Yorker: “Anyone who can explain the final shot deserves a refund.”

Rob Thomas, Capital Times: “Mike Cahill keeps the science fiction elements of his film hanging in the background much like that other Earth. But they exude a strong gravitational pull nonetheless.”

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: “The wildly improbable set-up is merely the jumping off point for an exploration of grief, guilt and redemption that plays out almost entirely between two people thrown together by circumstance.”

Tom Long, Detroit News: “The result is an alluring image — Earth above Earth — a wrenching story and a wonder-tinged film.”

Jane Boursaw is the founder and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Her credits include hundreds of print and online publications, including The New York Times, People Magazine, Variety, Moviefone, TV Squad and more. Follow her on Twitter at @reellifejane.

Jane Boursaw has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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  1. sounds like a film which asks good questions wihtout offering a lot of answers… thanks for the intriguing review, Jane.
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