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November 29, 2011

DVD of the Week – Review of Another Earth (2011)


Rhoda (Brit Marling) was just accepted in the astrophysics program at MIT. She parties a tad too hard and on her drive back home, while listening to the radio she hears that a new blue planet was discovered and that it can be seen with the naked eye, just to the right of the Northern Star. As she admires the tiny blue spec in the night sky she crashes her car, head-on into a parked SUV that contained a husband, pregnant wife, and a child in the back seat.

Four years pass and Rhoda is released from prison. She believes that putting her life’s ambitions and goals behind her is the right thing to do and the proper way to go about living her miserable life. She begins by working as a janitor in a school.

The film shifts from the current story to the presence and existence of Earth 2 every so often and as that little blue planet in the sky is a bit bigger after four years, just a tad larger than our moon, the film asks the audience a very important question: if Earth 2 (as Earth 1 inhabitants call it) hadn’t appeared in the night sky that night, four years ago, would Rhoda still have committed a crime and gone to prison for it? Earth 2 then becomes metaphoric and symbolic rather than physical and that’s why this is a gem of a film.

Rhoda finds out that the only survivor of the car crash was the father (William Mapother), a Yale professor and musical composer, who was in a coma for four years and had recently awoken. She attempts to come clean and fails, resulting in her pretending to offer a cleaning service. She drops by on a weekly basis and their relationship grows. But what happened to his family on Earth 2? Are they all intact and happy? We’ll never know….

During a televised broadcast, a woman attempts to communicate with Earth 2 via radio and believes that she’s only getting feedback. Then she finds herself communicating with Earth 2’s exact version of herself, down to the trip that she’s taken with her parents when she was very young. Always present in the sky, during the day and during the night, Earth 2 is an exact copy of our Earth. But what happens to Rhoda up on Earth 2? Did our Earth also suddenly appear out of the blue (to them) and cause Rhoda 2 to kill three people? Such questions plague the film’s characters as much as they do the audience.

Lastly, there is also the side story of a ludicrous idea in which a large corporation sponsors a trip to Earth 2 via a 500 word essay. Anyone who wins the contest will win a free trip to Earth 2 and, of course Rhoda writes an essay. What begins as a laughably premise later, much later, turns out to be quite an important chunk of the story that propels the character into a fantastic third act.

From early on in the film I noticed that Earth 2, a planet that’s 48 times the size of our moon and that exists right next to it, didn’t change our global settings; our tides hadn’t changed, due to its strong gravitational pull and its light scheme mimicked that of our moon. So taking Earth 2 to be symbolic rather than physically present would ease most minds. This is not exactly a science fictional film but at its end, yeah, it kind of is. Another Earth is a very suitable title for this film.

What we have here is a film that explores the philosophy of infinite realities and their coexistence with one another, if any are defined as coexistent. In Another Earth, we have a single reality in which one planet has an exact duplicate in its solar system. The only thing that truly separates the two Earths is its inhabitants. At one point in someone’s life they’ll take a right while their copy will take a left. Reality then changes on a cosmic level but the Earths are not linked physically, only philosophically, so no one on either of the planets feels any repercussions. But the questions hound us. Curiosity after all killed the cat.

As this is an indie film, the cinematography, although really good, is presented entirely in a handheld manner and really doesn’t need to be. But it doesn’t ruin the experience in any way because the screenplay, written by Marling and the film’s director (Mike Cahill), is excellent. This is a well shot, terrifically acted film, especially Marling’s performance, a real up and comer, and one that stuck with me for days after I’d watched it. This is one of my favorite films from this year and it goes to show that independent films can be really good if their creator’s ambitions go beyond the micro budget and limited casting.

This film only comes as a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy and it contains a Theatrical Feature; 7 Deleted Scenes; Music Video: “The First Time I Saw Jupiter” by Fall On Your Sword; The Science Behind Another Earth; Creating Another Earth; Fox Movie Channel presents Direct Effect with Mike Cahill; Fox Movie Channel presents In Character with Brit Marling; and Fox Movie Channel presents In Character with William Mapother.

Other new releases this week: 30 Minutes or Less, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, One Day, Our Idiot Brother, Seven Days in Utopia, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil