Another Earth (Cahill, 2010)

Link to a formal review at the end of this.  Another Earth is director Mike Cahill’s debut, and it’s one of those films that makes me angry…because it’s really good.  The premise sounds like it could be kind of dumb: another planet earth is discovered concurrent with the protagonist’s attempt at redemption.  Will annoying symbolism abound?  Luckily, no.

Cahill’s film, which follows Rhoda (Brit Marling) as she deals with the consequences of a tragic past involving widowed former professor John (William Mapother) was a hit at last year’s Sundance film festival.  It’s well controlled, gorgeously paced, and really quite the film to see.

I’m not sure what it was shot on, imdb doesn’t list it, but the film is grainy and looks like HD.  The camera is very handheld, but not in that kind of annoying mumblecore way.  It’s handheld isn’t frenetic, either.  It sways, and fits with the swaying pace, like the slow closing of an eyelid.

A lot has been written on the internet about the ending of Another Earth, and I’m going to SPOIL it here:

It’s learned that mirror images of ourselves exist on Earth 2.  Rhoda has won a trip there.  She gives her ticket to John, whose family she killed years ago in a drunk driving accident, as an act of redemption/

This is illogical to me.  What is John supposed to do on Earth 2?  Kill his other self and take over his family if they’re not dead?  Watch, see that they’re okay, and then live despondently because he can’t interact with them?  And if they are dead…hang out with his other self and commiserate?  It’s a nice gesture, but doesn’t make much sense.

So at the end of the film, after John has left (4 months after, in fact), Rhoda happens upon her other self.  On Earth (1).  Cut to black.  It’s haunting and beautiful, but also somewhat illogical.  Is the assumption that she also killed John’s family on Earth 2 and then didn’t give him the ticket?  Why not?  Or is the assumption that she didn’t, went to MIT as was intended, still won the essay contest (which I find unbelievable – she wins because of her experience after the accident) and comes to earth?  It’s a shame, because the images that Cahill evokes in his ending are great…but they come at the sacrifice not of true logic, but of believability.

That’s me complaining.  This movie is awesome.  See it.  There’s so much other great stuff and Rhoda and John’s relationship is so nuanced.  The score is awesome.  The acting is awesome.  The shot selection is awesome.  I loved it.

It also features a great character named Purdeep (Kumar Pallana) as a blind, and eventually deaf janitor.  He shuffles around and occasionally whispers words of wisdom to Rhoda.  His words are sometimes indecipherable.  Other times the meanings are.  But he exudes a gentleness and a hurt that is unmistakeable.  When he cries towards the end, with her lying at his side in a hospital bed it’s a heart-wrenching moment.


About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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