This is an engaging movie that works on two levels, science fiction and psychological connection. The film opens with a beautiful still picture of Jupiter. Presently, in voice-over a woman relates how fascinated she was by it as a young girl, particularly when it was set in motion, which we get to see as well. That sets the stage for the scifi story. Next you see—presumably—the same young woman in her car. Mostly you simply see her face in the rear view mirror, and begin to wonder just who she is and what she is about (the psychological theme in the story). Suddenly, there is a crash. And the story begins to unfold.
I don’t want to tell much of the story, because it’s better to be surprised by each event as it occurs. As the director/writer Mike Cahill says, “The audience will not get what they’re expecting”, and that’s the crux for this film. The scifi part of the story poses the question of what it would be like if we discovered another earth. What if we encountered ourselves? What would that be like?
The psychological drama is concerned about who we are, how we deal with painful loss, how we take care of our obligations and responsibilities, and how we try to assuage our guilt when we make mistakes. Mike Cahill and the star of the film, Brit Marling, wrote the story together, and Marling gives a very nuanced but stunning performance as Rachel Williams. The two have collaborated as writers, producers, directors, and cinematographers on several films (Another Earth, Boxers and Ballerinas, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man, and others in production). The actor William Mapother, who stars opposite Marling, is likewise impressive in his portrayal of a grieving professor and accomplished musician. His special little concert for Rachel using a violin bow on a saw was one of the more moving scenes in the film.
The Sundance Film Festival of 2011 awarded Another Earth the Alfred P. Sloane Prize (outstanding film with science, technology, or math as a major theme), as well as a Special Jury Prize (World Cinema – Dramatic).
GRADE: A- By: Donna R. Copeland