January 5, 2012 -- I was expecting this to be a science fiction movie, but it really isn't. It is more of a dramatic love story. The science fiction element, the sudden appearance of an exact duplicate of the planet earth, complete with a duplicate of every person on earth, takes a back seat to that of a strange relationship that develops between a felon and her victim.
In some ways, this film reminds me of “Melancholia” another 2011 film where a planet appears out of nowhere, headed towards the earth. There are major differences between the two films, however. “Melancholia” has mostly awful characters behaving badly, really nasty people for the most part, while “Another Earth” features people who are flawed, but who at least trying to be decent to each other. They embody positive human values, as opposed to the almost total negativity in “Melancholia” (where the earth is evil and deserves to be put out of its misery).
In both films, the science is total nonsense. What is portrayed isn't anywhere close to being scientifically possible in either film. While “Melancholia” is a big budget film with big name stars and a big name director, “Another Earth” is a much lower budget film with mostly unknown actors, except for William Mapother of “In the Bedroom” and “Mission Impossible II,” and a relatively unknown director, Mike Cahill. Also, “Another Earth” is a much better film than the overrated “Melancholia.”
The beautiful Brit Marling stars as Rhoda Williams, a juvenile drunk driver who is distracted by the approach of Earth 2 while driving. Her car smashes into another car driven by John Burroughs (played by Mapother) killing his wife and son. After serving her time in jail, she becomes a custodian at a high school. One day, she decides to visit Burroughs to apologize to him for the tragic accident. When he opens the door, however, she loses her nerve and makes up a story about a free trial offer for a cleaning service. John doesn't recognize her because he was in a coma for months after the accident and Rhoda's name was not revealed in court documents because she was a juvenile at the time of the accident. John takes her up on her offer and she begins to clean his house, which is a mess.
Rhoda returns to John's house every week to clean it and the two gradually become friends, and finally, lovers. But that can't last with such a terrible secret hanging over their relationship. Meanwhile, Rhoda has entered a contest for a free trip to Earth 2 via a high-powered space shuttle. She wins the free trip and plans to head to Earth 2 to find out what is there. Then she discovers an intriguing possibility. It may be that Earth 2 isn't exactly the same as Earth 1 after all, especially after first contact was made between the two worlds. This opens up the possibility of a second chance.
This movie is basically a “what if?” story. It asks the question of what would happen if there was an exact duplicate of earth with the same history and there was an exact duplicate of each of us on that other world. We each think of ourselves as being unique. What if we are not unique? The discovery of an earth twin would have far-reaching psychological effects on people. In this film, the appearance of a twin earth somehow shatters the synchronism between the two worlds and their development becomes increasingly divergent after the earth's twin is discovered.
As I mentioned earlier, it is literally impossible for there to be another earth in our solar system for a number of reasons, the main one being the gravitational influence of the twin earth would have been detected long ago. With the number of space probes all over the solar system now, there is no place for earth's twin to hide. Also, the orbital mechanics would not allow for the two earths to approach each other in the way depicted here without catastrophic consequences to one or both worlds. For the two worlds to approach each other, a cataclysmic event would have to have happened to change the orbital velocity, hence the orbit itself, of one or both worlds.
Modern physics, string theory and the implications of big bang theories make it likely there is another earth. In fact, there could be a near infinite number of earth twins if there are multiple universes, which is a distinct possibility. There could be an almost infinite number of people like you, reading reviews like this written by people like me. We probably will never see a twin of earth, but that doesn't mean it isn't out there, somewhere in the vast possibilities of the multiverse.
This expansive idea of life in the universe is quite different from medieval ideas, explored, for instance, in the film “Melancholia,” which argues that earth is the only planet in the universe with life on it. That is essentially a notion from the Middle Ages. The more modern scientific view, based on the latest planetary discoveries, is that life is most likely not unique at all. This is a film with a big imagination, but it is also a very human story with well-rounded characters. It is a story about how lives can change in an instant. Redemption is hard, but people of conscience have to try for it. It is also about our unending desire for a second chance, no matter how rare it comes along. This film rates a B.
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