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The Game Effect Review

Another Earth Review

Mike Cahill's feature film debut is both engaging and thought-provoking

By Colton Naval on 1/15/2012
 Another Earth is director Mike Cahill's first feature film. That fact alone suggests that he's a director to look out for. This may be a film you've heard of, but more than likely it has slipped under your radar. If that's the case, I urge you to stop reading this review, rent the movie, and enjoy one of the most thought-provoking films in recent years. You will be surprised.

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The story follows Rhoda (Brit Marling), a beauty and brains kinda girl who, at the film's beginning, is celebrating her acceptance to MIT with some friends. We're not shown too much of the seventeen-year-old Rhoda, but from what we do see it's clear that she's happy, lively, and has a bright future ahead of her. Tired and intoxicated, Rhoda leaves the party. What follows is devastating. While driving on the interstate, Rhoda hears news that an Earth-like planet has been discovered, and that it is visible in the sky. Rhoda, trying to find the planet in the sky, crashes into renowned composer John Burroughs' (William Mapother) vehicle, killing his wife and small child and putting him in a coma. Rhoda is arrested and the film flashes forward to four years later, right as she's being released from prison.

It's clear she's not the same person, but should she be? Consider her position. People will treat her differently, cautiously - they'll act strange around her. She'll have trouble establishing a stable life. But the worst is the heavy burden of guilt and regret that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Marling effectively absorbs these qualities and spits out a different Rhoda, one who is quiet, prefers not to be around people, and has that look of someone who can't shut their thoughts up. She also infuses Rhoda with grace and integrity - a good thing too, because it saves the character from becoming pitiable, instead evoking a redemptive sympathy.
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At the center of the film's emotional core is the developing relationship between Rhoda and the now-awake John Burroughs. Rhoda wants desperately to apologize, but when she knocks on his door she loses her nerve. Instead, she lies about being a maid and is hired to clean his house. Marling and Mapother have great chemistry - Rhoda's tense quiet and subtle compassion underscore Burroughs' anger, grief and depression, enhancing the tragic reality of the situation. But Rhoda's restraint plays awkwardly once Burroughs starts opening up to her. Their budding romance only serves to fuel the dramatic elements of the film, and it feels unnecessary.   Another Earth would have benefited from keeping the focus on Rhoda's alienation and attempts at redemption.

The acting in this film is understatedly outstanding. Marling is the definite standout. She really gets inside the mind of Rhoda, conveying as much guilt as she feels. Mapother is convincing as Burroughs, imbuing his character with a restrained edginess that contrasts with Rhoda's softness. The somewhat eclectic supporting characters keep the film fresh and stable (though one character's actions seem too over-the-top). The subject matter is tricky territory, but it's Cahill's delicate treatment of his characters that keep the film from becoming too melodramatic.

Aside from her role as Rhoda, Marling shared co-wrote the screenplay with Cahill. Though the basic story feels familiar, the end result of their collaboration is an engaging film anchored by delicate, convincing performances and an absorbing concept. Most important, Cahill has created a film that isn't afraid to make you think. Later, it is discovered that Earth 2 is a mirror of the our own Earth, including the same people. That's right - a planet with another you. This offers intriguing possibilities. By its credits, my mind was churning with different questions. What would another Earth be like? Would it be the same? Would it be different? And if given the chance, would you want to meet another you?
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teknoandy69 on April 03, 2012
Sounds like the movie might be worth watching. Honestly can't say I've heard of it until now.
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