Movie Review: Another Earth

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What if there were another ‘you?’  Wouldn’t you wonder whether this other you made the same choices as you did?  What would you learn and say if you could stand outside of yourself and meet you?  This is “Another Earth,” which made a splash at Sundance.

In “Another Earth,” not only that another planet is discovered from behind the sun, but literally another Earth, a mirror of ours.  And the inhabitants are not simply living and breathing things; they are us.

Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) is a promising astrophysics student who has just been accepted by MIT.  In the evening of celebration, she parties and drinks too much.  On the road, while looking out the window and staring up to the identical Earth in the sky, she crashes her car into a minivan.  The crash leaves John Burroughs (William Mapother),  a Yale music professor, in a coma and kills his wife and toddler son.

Four years later, instead of graduating from college, Rhoda is released from behind bars.  She punishes herself and withdraws from the world.  She takes a job as a high school janitor.  That sole survivor, John, is now a shell of his former self.  After finding out that this gifted composer spends his days sleeping in, drinking and on medication, and lives in an unkempt home, Rhoda commits in doing the unimaginable.  The attempted suicide in the snow is a striking scene.

Rhoda weaves herself into John’s life in a desperate bid to help him.  Her attempts to apologize fall through.  Through her cleaning service and companionship, she and John eventually bond – without John knowing about her true identity.  Her record is sealed since she’s a minor at the time of her conviction.

When a company offers a writing contest for a space travel to ‘Earth 2’ (as it’s called b by our Earth), Rhoda sends her essay and wins a ticket.  She’s willing to venture out to the unknown universe for another chance, even though it’s not clear what kind of chance that is – perhaps changing the past, making a different decision, or a new beginning.  There’s a theory that when each Earth is aware of the existence of another, the synchronicity would be broken and a new reality is formed.

“Another Earth” is a character-centered drama about anguish, guilt, grief, repetance and redemption – with  science fiction as a backdrop.  Throughout there’s a dreaded sense as the story moves along toward Rhoda’s eventual reveal to John.  Marling is a darling here.  She’s a natural with her soulful expressions.  Somehow she succeeds in making you symphatize with her character.

“Another Earth” is quietly moody and haunting, with pensive looks, singular sounds and long walks.  The photography is uneven between amateurish and arresting.  I had to do a double take on the ending, as it could be interpreted in different ways.  It’s a letdown initially, but it grows on me.  Still, my curiosity nature would have liked to learn more about Earth 2.

The premise is incredibly intriguing that it’s hard to live up to its potentials. There are so many ways to craft and execute a story out of it.  Personally, I hope that another filmmaker would run with the concept and do another take.

If you’re looking for a pure science fiction or action, you won’t find it here.  But if you’re looking to ponder about possibilities, this is one of those films that will make you think.

Copyright (c) 2011. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a business manager, foreign language translator, lifestyle/travel writer and film columnist. She can be reached at Nathalia owns a movies blog, The MovieMaven (  Twitter:!/the_moviemaven

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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