On the night that a duplicate Earth is discovered in our Solar System, Rhoda (Brit Marling) a teenage student, drunk after celebrating her entry to M.I.T. causes a horrific accident which brings her crashing into the orbit of composer John Burroughs (William Mapother). After four years in prison, Rhoda returns to her parents’ home to try rebuilding her life and to come to terms with her guilt. An intelligent science student, instead of using her book-smarts to look for a decent, well-paying job, she instead signs on to work in the maintenance department of the local high school, where she won’t have to think too hard or interact with too many other people.
Her path crosses with Burroughs again on the fifth anniversary of the accident which binds them, and Rhoda decides to try making her peace with the composer; all the while Earth 2 hovers over them like a giant shadow. When it is discovered that it contains intelligent life, a competition is run to find people to make the first space trip to the new planet. Seeing an opportunity to make a fresh start, Rhoda soon finds herself torn between two worlds.
The premise of Another Earth obviously combines elements of science-fiction, but weds them to a more down to earth drama, which deals with a young woman’s struggle to make sense of where her life has led her, and her desire to atone for the suffering she has caused another. The talented Brit Marling (who also gets a credit as co-writer and co-producer) is terrific as the fragile, damaged Rhoda. Where it might have been tempting to go for an Oscar-worthy performance, Marling instead underplays, gaining our sympathy slowly but surely. It is a confident, assured performance, as it needs to be, given that she is in nearly every scene; and she is well supported by William Mapother as Burroughs.
First-time feature director Cahill handles directorial duties with aplomb. There are some nice stylistic touches, especially in the sound design; and though the film creaks in places, it wears its indie heart on its sleeve, and the Earth 2 effects are both persuasive and impressive. It’s an impressive debut and it’ll be interesting to see where both Cahill and Marling go from here.
Another Earth is on general release.
Watch the trailer: