The Film: Another Earth (2011)
The Principles: Mike Cahill (Director), Brit Marling, William Mapother
The Premise: A heart felt character drama about a girl whose mistake ends a promising future and the family of a resident music professor. Set against the backdrop of the discovery of a mirror planet.
Is It Good: Yes, but only with planned expectations.
Another Earth has been championed a few times on this site, both directly on this site and on the partner site Guy.com. So why the hell would I touch on something that has already been covered. The reason I give is because I purposely avoided it. It flat out looked boring from the trailers, and no matter what the word of mouth was I didn’t care. I know there have to be others out there that have felt exactly what I did. I’ve heard good things about the film on this site and others. I’ve read in the community forums that this was a rough gem that stood out as a significant example of quality independent film. Even the eclectic IMDB users had high opinions of this film.
So why didn’t I want to see it? It seemed like a perfect lullaby, that couldn’t have many original thoughts when using such a ridiculously generic low budget color scheme. The visuals in the trailer evoked the washed out drab colors so commonly seen in independent films that have no redeeming grace. I know, I am on a movie site that embraces independent film, but just because something isn’t of the studio system does not make it good. I am personally under the impression that while they may often be more unique, there are just as many or more bad independent films as there are bad studio films. So if you mimic a blah color scheme often used in wantingly dark character studies often about a failed relationship or college angst drama, that doesn’t necessarily inspire this as a breath of fresh air or an original concept.
Add to that the idea that there is another inhabitable planet and on it there are mirror images of the humans on earth and it not only sounds like an invitation to plot holes, but an incredibly dull concept. Who wants to meet themselves when there should be little green men or black acid blooded xenomorphs out there? Let alone if you can visibly see the other planet than there would have to be some gravitational consequences. Mixing these two concepts to me sounds like eating a paper towel sandwiched in between two generic white sandwich bread slices. A bunch of flavorless fiber that will not give you any enjoyment but will make your next bowel movement easier on you. Not exactly something to strive for.
I figure if I attempt to explain why I avoided it means I can avoid just rewriting what everyone has said about the film. There isn’t much new to be had. It’s a wonderfully written character piece set against a science fiction back drop that only plays prominently when dealing with the choices the characters make. What that means is the science fiction portion is only the set piece and rarely the driving factor in the film. The main story deals with a horrible event and the effect it has on the people involved.
The other reason I think I finally gave in is that I am stalking Brit Marling. After have a chance affair with Sound of My Voice, she wowed me as she not only played a pivotal role in it, but she co-wrote Voice. I decided that stalking would be another great achievement of mine, so I looked into her history. She was credited as a co-writer on a documentary about the strained relationship between Cuba and the US, and she was also listed as the lead actress and co-writer on Another Earth.
Is It Worth A Look: Yes. If only for fan favorite William Mapother in a starring role.
At times the film comes across as heavy handed, particularly with the omnipotent Native American custodian who often says stereotypical wise epithets. Not only can this be seen as almost racially offensive, it also dumbs down the audience by heavy handing some of the concepts within the film. If that character doesn’t exist the subtle transitions and motivations for the leads would have had even more weight as the audience would have been more invested. Regardless, that was such a small subplot that it doesn’t affect the overall experience.
That one flaw aside, the drab color scheme properly carries the dark character study that revolves around a matching deep and dark subject. The colors become better and even beautiful as the characters change, allowing the film to have a character all its own, something so vital for such a small film. So the initial turn off becomes one of the strengths, though the marketing department could have used a lesson or two in focusing on the dismal run of mill boring subject matter.
If you are like me and know that everyone keeps saying this is worth a look but the trailers do nothing to justify those opinions, then you should attempt to taper your first thoughts and open yourself to this wonderful character based film. Do your best to forget the science fiction aspect. Let the film force feed that when it needs to. If you look for issues with the logistics, you can find them, but that wasn’t the main focus of the film. Let the two leads take their rightful place in the spotlight and enjoy their great performances (and that definitely includes Mapother).
Another Earth was nominated for 17 total awards, and won 7 of them including 2 for Marling’s acting and 3 for director Cahill.
Cahill’s house was used as Marling’s family residence.
Mapother worked for $100 per day.
Cinematic Soulmates: Crash Looper, Carnage, Tyrannasaur, In a Better World