Thursday, December 1, 2011

Review: Another Earth

Non Spoiler Review:
Another Earth is director Mike Cahill's Sundance Festival winning entry, a unique gem of a film that doesn't easily fit in the sci fi genre, despite the promotional images of the ginormous alternate Earth hanging in the sky. Rhoda (Brit Marling, who also shares writing credit with Cahill) is a promising graduate with a great future ahead of her. But the night a new planet is discovered, she causes an accident that links her forever with John (William Mapother—Ethan from Lost). The devastated and damaged Rhoda that emerges must deal with her mistakes and the similar ruin she's inflicted on this stranger. Meanwhile, in the sky, the mysterious new Earth grows ever closer.

Another Earth is beautifully shot, with depressing colours and textures to mirror the actors' despair. Only Earth 2, as it's been dubbed, remains the gleaming beacon of hope and redemption in the sky as the characters wander through bleached out backgrounds and wintery landscapes. 

Above all else, Another Earth is an extremely well-written drama. Marling delivers an extraordinary performance, and I hope to see her in other roles. Even Mapother (who still reminds me of Ethan, like, all the time!) shows his acting chops. The movie is so well-crafted that their intimate drama alone can carry the movie, even if you completely remove the second Earth plot. 

My criticism of Another Earth is unique in this case. It arises out of just how damn compelling the storyline and performances are. It's when the science fiction elements of the doppelganger Earth increasingly come into play that the story feels stolen (or interrupted, perhaps), diverging towards a conclusion that, while still very good and fitting (with some Twilight Zone twists), almost depreciates the relationship I watched evolve over the movie.

It's rare that I would criticize the writers for being so good at character development that their story might have been more suited grounded in our everyday realism. I get the impression that Cahill had this vision of an alternate Earth in the sky and was determined to develop a screenplay around it. What he did was create an even more riveting drama that I would have preferred to see resolved without the backdrop of the second Earth and its offerings of second chances. 

I don't think this movie is for everyone, and especially not for those walking into it expecting hard science fiction. Aside from the comments of scientists and philosophers in the background newscasts of the occasional scene, there is no explanation how Earth 2's proximity to our planet doesn't wreak havoc. For that, I would suggest Lars Von Trier's Melancholia, which, coincidentally, I also watched this week. Then again, I don't think that would please the hard sci fi crowd either.

I won't waste time languishing for what it's not. Another Earth was a satisfying little film and managed  to accomplish more on a minimal budget than a lot of blockbusters could hope to. I was pleasantly surprised, given I assumed from the trailer I wouldn't like it. I can't rave enough about Marling's performance and I'll definitely rewatch this again simply for that. And despite my wishes of an alternate version of Another Earth with a more mundane ending, the conclusion we got suited the story, and it still left me with plenty to ponder.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...