A triumph of indie film-making
Another Earth review
12th December 2011
The Young, intelligent and beautiful Rhoda (Brit Marling), who is the protagonist of the drama/sci-fi film Another Earth, is a good person. The successful composer, John (William Mapother), who her life is to collide with is also a good person. This means nothing to fate however which is destined so see both their lives as they know it destroyed by one mistake. Rhoda drives home drunk from a party and, while gazing at a small blue dot in the sky, she collides with the composer's car killing his son and pregnant wife. He is put into a coma and she is sentenced to four years in prison.
The film then picks up after those four years with both Rhoda and John, who has awakened, completely lost with no knowledge of what life could possibly hold for them now. A lot has changed in those four years. That blue dot in the sky in fact turned out to be 'Earth 2' a perfect twin of the earth hanging in the sky. This provides one of the most incredible images you are going to see in any picture (be it indie or blockbuster) this year, with this beautiful sphere lingering in almost every outdoor shot.
Rhoda seeks out John in an attempt to apologise but when she comes face to face with the devastated man she loses her nerve and inadvertently becomes his cleaner. Without him knowing who she really is they form a close friendship. This is forged on one side because she becomes the only person he really has, and on the other because Rhoda feels she is making amends for the harm she has caused him.
From here I couldn't see how the film could reach a satisfying conclusion. There was no way that John could ever forgive Rhoda for what has happened and Rhoda could not live a lie for the rest of her life. Happily though the film finds a way using the sci-fi side of the story, where Rhoda enters a competition to be sent to Earth 2, to provide a kind of closure on both sides.
One scene from Another Earth I feel truly reveals what this film is really about. It does not follow any of the major plotlines and could easily be ignored in the whole sceme of things. It involves Rhoda sitting by the bedside of a blind and deaf cleaner she had worked with (Both Ailments had been inflicted by himself). In a beautifully emotional scene we see her write the word 'forgive' on his hand letter by letter. He breaks into tears. This is what the film is really about, the fact that John may never be able to forgive Rhoda for what she has done. And even more so Rhoda's journey to try and make amends so she can forgive herself.
Another Earth from first time director Mike Cahill is a triumph of indie film-making. There will be comparisons between this film and Lars Von Trier's Melancholia but they are not fair. What Cahill has achieved here is far more subtle and that is his genius. I cannot emphasise how much I recommend this film. The low budget does not translate into a lesser product.