The concept behind the Sundance 2011 entry Another Earth is that astronomers have discovered a planet that may be an exact duplicate of our Earth, including identical versions of every human on it. Yes, it’s a huge celestial metaphor for our desire for second chances—and that’s actually the most plausible thing in this unintentionally hilarious mess of a sci-fi drama.
On the night that the discovery of the planet is announced, 17-year-old Rhoda (co-screenwriter Brit Marling) is responsible for a car crash—effectively, jarringly staged—that takes the life of the wife and child of composer John Burroughs (William Mapother). Four years later—after Rhoda has been released from prison—she makes contact with John, who has no idea of her role in the tragic events that changed his life. Meanwhile, a contest is offering a chance for someone to take the first trip to Earth 2—and guess who wants to go.
Marling and co-scripter/director Mike Cahill at least make an effort to explain why Rhoda should take such actions; it’s a familiar “trying to wash away the guilt” arc, but at least it makes sense at the outset. Nothing else that these characters do or say, however, feels remotely like the behavior of actual humans.
Do I believe that John has been sitting around a disintegrating house for four years in a toque and a stained T-shirt getting drunk? Do I believe that even after calling the cleaning agency Rhoda claims to be working for in order to get inside his house, John still lets her in? Do I believe that the scene in which John plays a saw—let me repeat that: a saw—for Rhoda is really supposed to inspire a sense of impending romance, rather than uncontrollable giggles? Or maybe this is all meant for some alternate Earth, where goofiness like this can be taken seriously.
Brit Marling, William Mapother