Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Rhoda Williams, played by actress Brit Marling who also co-wrote the screenplay to this movie ‘Another Earth’, has the world at her fingertips.  She’s young, pretty, smart and intellectually advanced to the point that she will be enrolling at M.I.T. in the coming fall.  Unfortunately Rhoda’s intellectual common sense didn’t get the memo that it’s bad to drink and drive, while staring off at the sky looking at blue dots which may or may not be an alternate earth.  A truly intelligent person would probably pull over to look at blue dots in the sky, but then director Mike Cahill’s film would be about something else altogether, and it was fine the way it was.

What Rhoda’s drunken distracted driving has done is caused the deaths of the wife, child and unborn child of Yale music professor John Burroughs (William Mapother), and she also put him in a coma for a while but he has survived.  Rhoda did four years for this senseless crime, but she was underage at the time so at twenty one they put her back on the street.  Also in the four years that Rhoda was down, that alternate Earth has become crystal clear in the night sky.  At it looks to be identical to ours in every way, shape and form.  But back to Rhoda, what does this convicted felon do with her life now?

What she should do is enroll in college and use this advanced intellect of her to try to make the world a better place.  What she does do is track down the extremely damaged John Burroughs, both physically and mentally, and start messing with him.  In all honesty she was attempting to meet with John to apologize to him for what she had done, which we here recognize as a terribly selfish act since the only person this apology could bring any satisfaction to is herself, but we know she thinks she has the best intentions.   But Rhoda couldn’t even manage to pull that off.  Instead she hangs around this extremely damaged cat, cleans his home, befriends him, and does some other things that she really probably shouldn’t have done.

Back to the other Earth, not only is it identical to ours in form and topography, it’s also identical down the souls that inhabit it.  In fact it looks as if the people on that earth and our earth have lived their lives in complete synchronicity… at least until we saw each other… then theoretically the synchronicity was broken.  How this relates to our story is

that it is possible that Rhoda on the other earth didn’t do what Rhoda on our earth has done, which means maybe John’s family is alive on Earth II.  The only way to know this is to go there, which looks like this just might happen.  What happens next is entirely open for discussion for anybody who has seen this movie.

I enjoyed Mike Cahill’s ‘Another Earth’ well enough, and I had been looking forward to seeing it after I had heard the description of it a year or so ago, even though I have just gotten around to watching it.  So I’ll be spoiling stuff, even though I imagine anybody who has wanted to see this movie has probably seen it already. 

This is a very quiet, methodical drama, with a tinge of Science Fiction coloring the edges, and it plays out almost as if it is a two person play.  To that end both Brit Marling and William Mapother are very effective in their roles, Mapother projecting the debilitating physical and emotional pain that exists almost constantly within his character, Marling displaying her characters emotional immaturity which is why she makes a number of poor decisions which compound upon one another. 

It’s the end of the film which has most people talking, Rhoda winning an essay to go on the first trip to alternate Earth but giving her ticket to John.  Then we have Rhoda coming home one day to find Alternate Earth Rhoda waiting for her.  What did that mean?  Well I don’t know, but we all have theories and this is what separates ‘Another Earth’ from 99.2% of the movies we see in that it does open an audience to discuss these theories with this audience given just enough information that maybe their theories might make sense. 

The Synchronicity is obviously broken since Earth 1 Rhoda gave her ticket away while Earth 2 Rhoda kept hers.  But is John’s family dead on Earth 2?  Earth 1 Rhoda wrote an essay about how she messed up so many lives, but did Earth 2 Rhoda write the same essay?  I mean how else would Earth 2 Rhoda hitch a ride on the ship?  Unless Earth 2 Rhoda wrote an essay about how she almost messed up a bunch of lives, which probably wouldn’t have won a contest, or perhaps Earth 2 Rhoda’s life went as planned, she went to M.I.T and was so academically gifted that she became an astronaut right out of college and was on the crew of that ship.  I think that’s highly unlikely as well.  Some have noted that Earth 2 Rhoda was dressed very nice and looked successful, unlike grungy Earth 1 Rhoda, but come on… Earth 2 Rhoda just caught a spaceship to another planet to meet somebody extremely special to her, so she’s going to dress up a little, right?

No, my thought is that Rhoda killed John’s family on both planets.  Rhoda 2 just didn’t or couldn’t give her ticket away.  There is still a certain amount of synchronicity that is maintained, observe both doctors still communicating with each other on both earth’s at the same time, well after we’ve become aware of each other’s existence.  Thus with that thought, Earth 2 Rhoda still went to the party, still drank too much, still tried to drive home and probably saw the blue dot in the sky at the same time.  This is going to suck for John 1 when he meets with the equally miserable John 2, but maybe they can find some joy in each other.  Even if his family were alive on Earth 2, then what?  They have a husband and father and don’t need another. 

Of course this all a discussion about something that may or may not have happened in a movie about something that doesn’t exist, but this what makes ‘Another Earth’ a special movie.

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