BLU-RAY REVIEW: ANOTHER EARTH (2011)
ANOTHER EARTH, directed by Mike Cahill, (who also wrote the story along with lead actress Brit Marling) is about a young woman, Rhoda Williams, who has just recently graduated high-school and gotten accepted into MIT. Since MIT is one of the tougher colleges to get into and most of its students are brains (which we learned from GOOD WILL HUNTING, right? Even the janitors are brainiacs!), we can conclude that Rhoda and her family probably are pretty damn proud of her. During her celebration out with friends, Rhoda gets drunk and makes the poor decision to leave the party drunk and drive home. While driving home, she decides to stargaze and not pay attention to the road and slams into a car that whose passengers are a mother, father, and what looks to be a very young child. Incidentally, news of a second planet that looks exactly like Earth and approaching Earth’s atmosphere comes on the radio and this news is what sparks Rhoda’s interest in gazing up at the stars while driving drunk.
I guess being a very intelligent, young adult does not equate to having any sort of common sense in regards to driving drunk and stargazing while driving. Predictably, Rhoda plows her car into the parked car sitting at a red light which results in the driver, John Burroughs, landing in a coma and his son and wife being killed instantly. Tragically, his son was thrown threw the window and lay 30 feet from the car. This scene in itself would serve as an excellent reminder not to go out driving while intoxicated. The scene packs a whopping punch and is fairly graphic and makes an impact on the viewer. It impacted me, anyways.
We then fast-forward to Rhoda getting released from prison, a light 4-year sentence for someone whose reckless carelessness destroyed a family, and killed a young child and his mother and left a man with infinite health problems, no family, and permanent psychological damage and trauma. Rhoda, despite her intelligence and advice of her parole officer, gets a menial job as a janitor of a high school. Predictably in a depressed and near-suicidal guilty conscience, she goes back to the accident scene and witnesses the father leaving a child’s toy at the exact spot where his son was found dead. The memorial hits Rhoda hard, resulting in Rhoda researching the case and finding out that the father (John Burroughs played by LOST’s William Mapother in a very solid performance) was once a very good composer now lives in a large private residence purchased with the idea that he and his family would be living there in the future.
Rhoda gets enough courage to go to apologize to John (Mapother), knocking on his door, but then wimps out and spins a lie, telling him that she works for some cleaning company and is conducting free trial cleanings at random homes in the area (even though the company she claims to be from is nowhere near John’s house) and since she came there straight from her custodial engineer duties, she is in a janitor’s suit. John decides to take advantage of her free services and lets her in to make a dent in the hermit lifestyle of a very depressed individual and his utter messiness.
Of course, as kind of expected, a relationship between the two forms. When watching this film, it really did seem more of a drama, elements of morose sadness and a very driven performance by actress Brit Marling (who simultaneously was filming another film at the same time—one in the mornings and one in the afternoons–and both premiered at Sundance) and she carried the film. On a weird side note, there were quite a few scenes shot and edited together of Rhoda (Marling) cleaning John’s (Mapole) house, and as much as I hate cleaning the house myself, I sure do enjoy watching others clean on film. Maybe it’s some sort of bizarre fetish–I am not sure.
While watching the film I became so absorbed in the film that I forgot about the elements of Sci-fi, such as the idea that the 2nd Earth might have a whole second replication of all that is on our Earth, the 1st Earth. The story lets the viewer ponder the idea of having a doppelganger of sorts on another planet and what that human (or non-human) double may do in life and how they turned out.
I enjoyed this film from start to finish and it surprised me on so many levels. I was not expecting to enjoy the film as much as I did, most of which was due to a trailer that made the film out to be very cliche and by the book, in terms of a drama.
The story, cinematography, and acting throughout the film was solid and the performance given by Brit Marling makes this film worth seeing all in itself. With a little surprise tossed in at the end (or maybe not too surprising), I look forward to more projects from the minds of Marling and Cahill.