*A philosophical cinematic enigma that only makes you wish pot was legal if used in a movie theater
If Dostoevsky was somehow able to magically adopt his classic novel Crime and Punishment to a movie with a science fiction theme, it is not an unfair comparison to say that Another Earth would be the result. It is a languid tale, alternatingly tedious and emotionally powerful, about a young woman, Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) who tragically causes a car wreck that destroys a family, killing the mother, her young son and leaving the father in a coma. It has a haunting effect that leaves you pondering the weighty questions raised by this intriguing little independent film long after leaving the theater.
Leaving prison after a four year incarceration, Rhoda remains shattered by her crime. One moment she was an intelligent, effervescent high school graduate whose future appeared limitless and the next she is a paroled felon too ashamed to be seen in public. She insists on taking a job as a high school janitor for reasons that are all too obvious.
As for John Borroughs (William Mapother), the physically and emotionally damaged widower, he is left alone in his own personal hell. A former head of the music department at Yale before his family was cruelly taken from him, he now spends his days alone in his ramshackle hovel of a home, trying to drink himself into a state of forgetfulness amidst tables full of prescription painkillers.
While these two damaged souls drift ever closer to a dark rendezvous of unknown consequences, something mysterious is going on in outer space. Another planet has been discovered, a planet that seems a perfect replica of Earth. As it steadily moves closer to our Earth, radio contact is established. Not only is their life on our sister twin planet, but that life contains a mirror image of ourselves.
Though admittedly more provocative than entertaining, the philosophical questions at the heart of this little brave film are worth contemplating. Everyone recognizes that we humans spend much of our lives engaged in a personal conversation with ourselves. However, what if you could actually speak to another you? While nearly all of us bear the scars of either our mistakes or freak encounters visited on us during life’s mysterious journey, would the other you have the peace of mind you once had before fate so cruelly raised its ugly hand?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to suggest that Another Earth rivals Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Then again, we are talking about the difference between the teams fielded by the wealthy New York Yankees and the financially strapped Tampa Bay Rays.
Yet, just like the Rays have been able to field some pretty good teams over the past few years, Another Earthtells a deliciously inventive story within the confines of its small budget. It forces you to ponder the cosmos and our role in it, and if that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, it is a film well worth your time.