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Another Earth

Reviewed by Galen Strickland

A lot of science fiction, in film and book form, can be seen as a metaphor for life here on Earth. In some stories it can be very overt - an alien species representing either the good or bad of human nature, or a scenario on another planet mirroring a current or historical Earthly event. In others, the SF element can be so peripheral to the main action that it might as well not exist; it could easily be a mainstream story. Another Earth is an example of the latter.

The other Earth in this film is simply a metaphor for second chances. Are they possible, in either this life or another, or are we doomed to live with the havoc, pain and suffering that our mistakes have created? It would be extremely easy to spoil the plot here so I won't say much more. Some other reviewers might say it is simplistic and pointless, but I think it is effectively touching without being overly sentimental or maudlin. The acting is sincere and subtle, with volumes of emotion expressed with a simple glance or the right camera angle.

It is a low budget film, and at times it looks it. Some scenes are dark and grainy, while others are lighted perfectly and in sharp focus. There were times when I felt the less than perfect scenes were a conscious choice by the director/cinematographer Mike Cahill, although there's only one scene that I had an idea of the effect they were after. Rhoda (Brit Marling, not only the star but also co-writer) is folding some freshly laundered clothing. Dust motes very noticeably swirl in the air. It might mean nothing, or it could have been a metaphor for our lives or our hopes, infinitesimal and fleeting, doomed to quickly disappear from view.

As with many independent films, its theatrical release was sporadic at best. I had seen a trailer for it in the theater, but I'm sure it never made it to my town. It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January last year, and made the rounds of other festivals over the following months with a very limited release beginning in July, which topped out at 94 screens nationwide five weeks later. It has won a few festival awards and was nominated for others, mainly Cahill for direction/writing/producing and Marling for acting/writing/producing. They have also been nominated for Best New Feature and Best First Screenplay for the Independent Spirit Awards. It will be interesting to follow their careers from this point. I wonder if we'll see it on either the Hugo or Nebula ballots this year, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Apparently the DVD only release was also very limited, because isn't offering it themselves, they only show a used copy from one of their marketplace sellers. I got the Blu-Ray from Netflix this week, and amazon does offer it in a BD/DVD combo even cheaper than that used DVD. I know I will want to see it again someday, primarily for Marling's performance, but right now I'm thinking another rental rather than a purchase. Good, not great.


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Mike Cahill

Mike Cahill
Brit Marling

July 22, 2011

Brit Marling
William Mapother

Full Credits at IMDb

Blu-Ray/DVD combo available from