Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Film Review: Another Earth

What with Nibiru due to arrive next year I'm beginning to wonder if I should be suitably worried given the permeation of ideas evincing grand cosmic events befalling Earth in our cultural zeitgeist, particularly that of other celestial entities suddenly appearing off our port bow. Following hot on the heels of Melancholia comes Another Earth, a film about, well, another Earth.

On the night that news breaks of a duplicate Earth having been discovered, prospective MIT student Rhoda (Marling) crashes her car, killing music professor John Burroughs' (Mapother) family. Released from prison four years later, Rhoda blags her way into Burroughs' life by posing as a cleaner, also entering a competition to become the first civilian visitor to Earth 2.

First thing's first, this is incredibly 'indie'. By that I mean it involves the following obligatory elements which categorise a film as such. Emotionally shattered people attempting to rebuild themselves and each other? Check. Rustic, hewn aesthetic. Also check. Music from some hipster band you've probably never heard of (in this case, 'Fall On Your Sword')? Yep. Indeed, for all intents and purposes Another Earth is under-lit, under produced and 'ugly', something which might understandably put many off. Perfect ingredients for a Sundance award then.

Another Earth is less sci-fi than its name or premise might suggest. There's no little green men or special effects here, rather dwelling on the idea of an exact mirror image of our Earth complete with our population and all the metaphysical garb such a thing might entail. It ponders on the philosophical ramifications all of this would have on people, including but not limited to: being able to confront yourself, whether things could be different if certain things hadn't happened and whether one can learn from themselves. Indeed, 'Earth 2' itself is modestly manifested via background snippets of media broadcasts rather than through languishing science-type characters. This technique allows the film's central thrust, its personal drama, to play out unabated, never losing sight of its emotive core. Above all Another Earth is more concerned with second-chances and ideas of what could have been - or what might yet be - more than it is science fiction.

What makes Another Earth particularly enthralling however is its performances. Bursting onto the scene is newcomer Brit Marling who emanates a genuine aura of heartbreaking anguish and personal penance. William Mapother is just as captivating in his battle with bereavement, giving Another Earth incredible sympathy. However, it is Marling's grief and struggle in coming to terms with what she has done which takes centre stage. Their tragic connection unbeknownst to Burroughs, watching the two of them tentatively build their relationship is nothing short of absorbing.

While the sci-fi strand is weak it is nonetheless essential for framing Another Earth's philosophical and metaphysical musings. As such you can ignore the lacking explanations as to how a duplicate Earth suddenly appears in geosynchronous orbit with our own as well as the omittance of any science to explain why such a large mass has no gravitational effect on either planet. Moreover this is an intimate, reasonably thought-provoking and heart moving personal drama coupled with some fine performances.