Timing they say, is everything. Imagine director and co-writer Mike Cahill’s reaction when he found out that his bold, low-fi science fiction drama Another Earth was to be released mere weeks after Lars von Trier’s similarly themed Melancholia. You wait for a neat, original idea for ages and then the same one appears in two films in two weeks. Even more frustrating for Cahill and his lead star and other co-writer Brit Marling is that theirs is the lesser of the two films. That’s not to say that it’s bad though, far from it in fact.
Astrophysics student Rhoda (Marling) is driving home when she hears news that a planet almost identical to Earth has appeared in the sky. Not paying attention to the road, Rhoda crashes into a stationary car and the resulting tragedy leads to a prison term. Four years later, she is released back into the world at the same time that her planet are trying to make contact with ˜Earth 2.’ Desperate to travel to the alternate planet for a fresh start, she decides in the meantime to make a mends with the driver of the car she crashed in to (William Mapother), but finds herself becoming closer to him than she ever imagined.
For a film that starts with such a heavily science fiction premise, Another Earth at no point feels stereotypical. It’s a moving and engaging personal character drama which marks the emergence of two new talents in Cahill and Marling. It’s slow-paced and ponderous, but plays this to its advantage, making sure to intersperse the drama with interesting philosophical and scientific questions via TV or radio.
The salient points stay with you long after the film ends, although it must be said that it’s a little too long for a full-length feature. As with so many art house films there are moments of beauty to behold, but around the half-way mark you can’t help but beg for it to pick up the pace a bit. There’s only so much of watching characters looking at things that any audience should be subjected too. Still with a neatly ordered and well-acted character drama at its core, Another Earth has just enough to hold the attention of its audience, while raising interesting hypothetical questions to chew over after the credits have finished rolling.