Tuesday, September 06, 2011
It is as if another earth illuminates the night sky in celebration of Rhoda's acceptance into MIT's astrophysics program. But her dream is shattered when she drives into a family's car instantly killing mother and son and leaving the father in a coma.
Released after five years in prison, Rhoda (co-writer Brit Marling) wanders the streets an outsider in her home town. She is a stranger in her own room, even in her own skin. She seems to be serving a self-induced penitence when she accepts a job as a school janitor so she won't have to talk to anyone. Should she be allowed to live when she took another person's life? Filmmaker/co-writer Mike Cahill creates a feeling of being outside herself by photographing her through windows and odd angles. This is one of those movies where the experience is enhanced by what the viewer brings to it. And there are plenty of silences to allow the audience to ponder what would have been had they made another choice in their own life.
Cahill uses the device of distant radio and TV broadcasts about the newly discovered Earth II as a way to share Rhoda's self reflections. The radio announcer confirms that the earth has been duplicated. “There's another you out there. Now you begin to wonder - has that “me” made the same mistakes as I made?” Maybe the other me made a better choice. Rhoda has an opportunity for a second chance. She enters an essay contest to win a shuttle ride to Earth II. She writes how the first explorers of Earth II should be the disenfranchised and criminals (like herself) because that's who first settled the New World – people who had nothing to lose.
Everything changes when she sees a man leaving a toy robot by the side of the road where the accident happened. She does a google search and finds that the boy's father (John Burroughs), previously a music professor, concert musician, and gifted composer, has come out of his coma. She becomes obsessed with the life he's lost. She goes to his house and finds him sleepwalking through his life and self-medicating. Consumed with guilt, she knocks on his door to confess, apologize, anything. She ends up offering him a free trial of her housekeeping services.
It is genuinely touching watching as the connection between these two wounded souls begins to bring them back to life. But what if Rhoda is chosen to go on the shuttle to Earth II? Will she find a smarter version of herself who made a better choice? Is it an opportunity for a second chance or suicide?
"Another Earth" looks like sci fi, but it is actually a very human drama. The discovery of Earth II acts as the framework to explore the life we create with our bad choices, the inherit regrets, self-forgiveness and redemption. Despite the tragic circumstances, Another Earth is really a story of hope.