If this were to be a one-word review that word would be disappointing. This low budget sci-fi film about the discovery of a twin Earth had me rather excited. You would not be wrong in saying it was one of my most anticipated films at the Film Festival this year. With the advent of cheaper software packages for digital effects, there have been a number of similarly smaller budgeted sci-fi films with a higher intelligence quota than your usual Hollywood science-fiction. In addition, I had been hearing some good things about Another Earth and parallel/twin worlds are one of the great unexplored aspects of science-fiction in films, in my opinion. Instead, Another Earth misses the mark entirely.
Up-and-coming new indie darling Brit Marling (who co-wrote and also starred and co-wrote another low budget sci-fi Sound of My Voice) stars as Rhoda, a bright young woman about to start her college life. She has an interest in astronomy and before she begins her great new life of study she and her friends have a final blowout party. It is while she is driving home from that party, more than a little inebriated, that “Earth-2” appears in the sky distracting Rhoda and causing her to plough into the Burroughs family car killing the son and pregnant wife and injuring the husband. Her entire life changes direction as she goes to prison for her reckless driving and is responsible for the deaths of a family. Three years later Earth-2 is still getting closer (with no adverse affects on our Earth) and Rhoda is getting out of prison and working a janitorial job at the local high school. She contacts the only other survivor of the car wreck, John Burroughs (Williams Mapother), at first to apologise but panics and lies to him. She ends up cleaning his house and, of course, starts a relationship with him.
However, the entire film is handled so obviously – Mapother’s family is hurtfully picture perfect; mum and dad joking with their obviously sweet and intelligent son and Oh! Mum’s pregnant with kid number two as well! It is an obvious and ineffective attempt to amplify the tragedy and the exploration of grief and redemption rarely moves beyond a high-school understanding of it. Of course Rhoda is not only going to look John Burroughs up, but she is also going to have a passionate affair with him while carrying this dark secret! Earth-2 is an obvious metaphor for second chances, especially when it is discovered to be a mirror image of ours. There is little further exploration of this other Earth or its larger impact on society, as it tends to just hang in the background – visually and thematically. To me, the more interesting approach is to delve into the wider ramifications of the discovery of an identical Earth; one that mirrors our own even.
In an attempt to, I don't know, give the film a sense of movement the cinematography is that godsawful ADHD handheld camerawork. Is it really that hard to compose a scene? I understand the need for this sort of camerawork if it suits but to use throughout an entire film, with barely any purpose behind it just becomes distracting and annoying.
I can see what all involved were going for. They weren't aiming for a hard science film, obviously, but wanted to take a science-fiction concept and use that as a lens to examine (and I hate saying this) the human condition. And that's fine, that's admirable; even though there are a number of practical realities that are difficult to ignore. And, if you're not going to delve a little deeper into these effects why bring small bits and pieces of them up throughout the film? Mix that in with fairly unlikeable characters, obvious metaphors and a tossed off race to the climax and you get what I found to be a frustrating disappointment.