VOD film review: Another Earth
Ivan Radford | On 07, Feb 2014
Director: Mike Cahill
Cast: Brit Marling, William Mapother
Watch Another Earth online in the UK: Disney+ / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
Sci-fi movies have frequently made a fuss about the collision between our planet and other worlds, preferably to use it as a chance for Bruce Willis to blow a rogue asteroid up. But Mike Cahill’s low-budget Another Earth is something else.
As MIT student Rhoda (Marling) prepares for a bright astrological future, Earth 2 appears in the sky – an exact replica of our home. Distracted by the duplicate rock on the horizon, Rhoda drives into another car. The collision kills the family in the other vehicle, except for the father, John (Mapother). What follows isn’t a loud blockbuster or even an otherworldly voyage but a quiet, introspective navigation of guilt as Rhoda tries to atone for the accident.
After being released from prison, she drops by John’s neglected house to apologise, but chickens out and ends up pretending to be a cleaner. Soon, the two outsiders start to connect as she sorts his messy life out. She washes the dishes. He cooks food. And the strange new world hangs in the sky.
“Now you start to wonder: has the other me made the same mistakes I made?” lyricises a philosophical guy on a radio in the background. It sounds heavy-handed, but Cahill doesn’t overdo the muted piano and probing voiceover. Layering a global question mark over the close-quarters relationship, the director’s surprisingly understated script (co-written with Marling) is deep and provocative. Mapother and the talented newcomer Marling are mesmerising leads, both lost, equally sincere and each of them dishevelled.
A collision of worlds, then, but without Bruce Willis blowing stuff up. And yet Another Earth is full of small-scale explosions that carry all the impact of hard science fiction – particularly in one moving scene, when Mapother plays the musical saw to Marling in an empty concert hall. Reminiscent of Solaris, this is a subtle, touching look at grief that raises serious questions about another world without ever leaving Rhoda’s front yard. And that’s an impressive achievement. Never feeling the pressure to visit the unknown planet, Cahill’s heartfelt focus gives Another Earth an emotional and intellectual substance that really resonates; after all, this could have been Earth 2 all along.
Another Earth is available on Disney+, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.