Its sci-fi hook may not be extraordinary and its love story improbable, but as its shattered protagonists connect and brighten while a luminous doppelganger globe suggests hope on the horizon, “Another Earth” tickles the imagination and is quietly stirring.
This indie tale of remorse and renewal bears the creative stamp of writer-director Mike Cahill, making his dramatic feature debut, and his co-writer and leading lady, Brit Marling. The two, along with co-star William Mapother, offset the slightness of the story by creating a captivating mood and by never letting the supernatural ingredients overshadow the human core.
Marling plays Rhoda, who, as an MIT-bound 17-year-old driving home from a party, gets distracted by a blue orb in the sky and ruins both the life of a stranger and her own astrophysicist future. Four years later, a guilt-plagued post-prison Rhoda, bent on cleaning up messes, gets a janitor job and visits composer John Burroughs (Mapother), whose world she wrecked.
Intending to apologize but instead presenting herself as a house cleaner, Rhoda enters the derailed John’s life. An uplifting love affair develops.
Meanwhile, the blue celestial object has become an imposing presence identified as a mirror planet containing inhabitants identical to Earth’s. To travel there could mean a fresh shot at life. That thought exhilarates Rhoda but scares John.
Cahill, who has cited “The Double Life of Veronique” as an influence, poses intriguing questions about concepts such as duplicate selves and parallel universes but does little profound or penetrating with them.
The love story, too, has its frustrations; it’s hard to swallow. A subplot involving a sage janitor is banal.
But Cahill blends his otherworldly and earthly ingredients so engrossingly, and his actors are so strong, that you generally buy what’s transpiring. He’s made a poetically low-fi, consistently mesmeric tale of disaster, atonement, risk, resurgence and goodness. The payoff is a bit underwhelming but a jot amazing, like much of this film.
Marling, a rising star with a radiantly natural quality, creates a heroine who is ethereal and deserving. She and Mapother are terrific together. Their scenes – in one, John plays music on a saw – contain a wonderfully spontaneous vibe.
The soundtrack by indie rockers Fall on Your Sword, reflecting Cahill’s tone of hope-laced melancholy, also is noteworthy.
Another Earth ???
Starring Brit Marling, William Mapother
Written by Mike Cahill, Brit Marling
Directed by Mike Cahill
Running time 1 hour 32 minutes