Friday, August 5, 2011

Another Earth

In the arthouse puzzler Another Earth, we're introduced to a young woman named Rhoda (Brit Marling), who on the night she learns she's been accepted into MIT gets in a nasty car accident, leaving a woman and child dead, and man in a coma.  On that same night, a new planet is discovered making this film (directed by Mike Cahill, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Marling) an indie oddity-- part guilt-ridden melodrama, part science fiction mystery, mostly meandering dither, but there's something intriguing and altogether interesting about Another Earth that I can't quite shake even though the film is without certain beyond flawed, there's something unique here that's hard to articulate.  Rhoda is busted for her crime, she spends four years in jail and re-enters society as a janitor at a local high school, full of ache and alienation for what she's done, and the beyond repair of her once thriving and noble potential.  She seeks out the man she's wronged, a one time composer and college professor named John Burroughs (William Mapother) and poses as his housekeeper in an act of cowardice and guilt, and an opportunity to hopefully right some of her wrongs.  All the while the strange undercurrents of another world are looming in the background-- in the four year jail sentence, it's given a name (Earth 2) and is later found to be inhabited, perhaps an alternate parallel universe.  I'm not sure I'm entirely sold on the premise, or the filmmaking or Marling as a leading lady, but there's something alluring going on while watching Another Earth, that will perhaps not completely emotional involving, is never boring.  The missing ingredient is purpose-- for all it's sad, angst-driven moodiness there's not much of a point to the relationship between Rhoda and John nor the Twilight Zone-like Earth 2, both strangely feel like subplots in search of meaning, but one gets the sense, and it might feel appreciative to a selective few, that the film is exactly what it was envisioned as-- flighty and pretentious, precious and slightly bold.  Marling gives an expressive, eternally minimalist performance as the grieving, hard to read woman, that while as shaky and on-the-fringes as the entire movie, has a certain lived-in authenticity.  For an actress that looks very much like your average pretty blonde ingenue, she's determined to make herself as ugly and timid as possible.  C+

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