Another Earth is a movie that starts with lots of movement and possibility. Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling, who also co-wrote and co-produced the film) is celebrating her acceptance into MIT on the very night a foreign planet appears in the sky. Rhoda, drunk and distracted by the second Earth, drives headfirst into another family’s car, killing a pregnant woman and her son. The father (William Mapother) survives.
Four years afterward, Rhoda is not graduating, but leaving jail. Shattered by grief, she takes a job as a high-school janitor. Rhoda later attempts to visit John, the father whose life she destroyed, but finds he’s more lost than she is. She can’t muster an apology.
Instead she talks her way into cleaning his house. The two broken characters fall into an unlikely relationship, able to understand and soothe each other’s grief even as Rhoda keeps her secret. The sparse gray setting of the film brightens, as they do. All the while, Earth 2 grows closer, offering new life and escape.
The final act falters slightly and becomes predictable—but the surprising twist in the movie’s last moments is enough to make audiences sit up and realize they have seen something unique.
Another Earth is very much a character piece. We don’t see how humanity on a larger scale reacts to the second Earth, except in brief glimpses. Our view is a microcosm, centered on Rhoda and her crawl toward redemption.
Viewers should be also aware that the science fiction is not the focus of this film. The mirror planet is merely an unexplained backdrop, a hook for raising questions and possibilities in the storyline. In the end we are left with a drama, one that’s well shot, well acted, and well written, but even that may not be enough for some audiences.
Another Earth premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and is currently in limited release.