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August 8, 2020 | Rome, Italy

Another Earth

By | 2018-03-21T18:21:23+01:00 November 1st, 2012|Reviews|

4

Date: 2011

Director: Mika Cahill

Starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother, Jordan Baker, Robin Lord Taylor, Flint Beverage, Kumar Pallana

Astute science fiction takes mundane events and subverts them just enough that normal light refracts against the grain. The prism’s primary colors remain intact but they give off a strange glow. Credit co-writer and actress Brit Marling and lead writer and cinematographer Mike Cahill with near-perfect subversion in this visually and aurally suggestive film that is at once a story of remorse, repair, and, of course, fantastic refraction.

Rhoda Williams (Marling) is stargazing MIT student is amazed to hear about the discovery of a duplicate earth while driving home from a party. Distracted, she crashes head-on into the car of Yale composer and music professor John Burroughs (Mapother), killing his pregnant wife and young child. Released from prison four years later and humbled into a kind of Nordic shame (she works as a janitor), Rhoda anonymously approaches the still-devastated Burroughs in an effort to apologize. Instead, she becomes his housecleaner.

Rhoda’s effort to “fix” her past has as a background global scientific efforts to make contact with “Earth 2,” a gambit that opens its own realm of narrative possibilities, including Rhoda’s entry into a contest for a commercial passenger to the mystery planet. An outcast in her own life, Rhoda seeks an escape hatch, which is also what grieving John wants. The result is a different kind of crash, this one between two beaten down and scarred souls looking to the cosmos for help.

Marling’s deer-in-the-headlights Rhoda — introduced as a teenager saying “I don’t want to eat the apple of cynicism…” — carries much of the action on her shoulders, with Mapother providing able assistance, including a stunning sequence in which he plays the musical saw. Within the folds of the story, with its punctuation-style piano and cello lines, are poignant ruminations about identity, second chances and limits beyond which not even tenderness can reach.

Faced with inevitable comparison with similarly-themed but grander works, including Lars von Trier’s same-year “Melancholia,” Cahill’s film asserts its own dimension. Like a deeply felt first novel, it is a fable both whole and at peace — from start to stunning end.

About the Author:

Marcia Yarrow
A military brat, Marcia Yarrow was born in Hamburg, Germany but grew up in Germany, Spain, and Provo, Utah. She's been writing for the magazine since its creation in 2004.

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