The ambitious but ridiculous Another Earth is built around a gigantic contrivance. A new planet, apparently identical to our own, has suddenly appeared in close proximity to Earth’s orbit. Rhoda (Brit Marlin), a 17 year-old astronomy buff, is looking up at the sky while driving, trying to see if she can spot it, when she rams headlong into another car, nearly wiping out an entire family. The father, John (William Mapother), survives. His wife and son do not.
Rhoda goes to prison for four years. When she gets out, the morose young woman, who once planned to attend M.I.T., moves in with her parents and gets a job as a janitor at a high school. More importantly, she knocks on John’s door without telling him who she is and claims to work for a housecleaning service. John, who still hasn’t recovered from his shattering loss and rarely leaves his house, hires her with a shrug. Gradually, haltingly, a romantic relationship develops. Meanwhile, Rhoda enters a contest to travel to the newly discovered Earth, which is apparently an exact replica of our own world, including alternate versions of ourselves, who may or may not be leading the same lives.
Another Earth, which was directed by Mike Cahill (he also co-wrote the screenplay with Marling) belong to the low-budget sci-fi genre of movies such as Primer and Cube and Pi – films that use their limited resources to reflect on grand, often metaphysical themes. But Another Earth only uses its fantastical premise as a backdrop for John and Rhoda to gradually emerge from their shells. Their affair strains credibility – who in their right mind would ever do what Rhoda does, even with the best intentions? – and near film’s end, when the alternate Earth comes into play, you get a closing shot that finally makes the movie intriguing. Unfortunately, Another Earth then cuts to black and the credits roll. This is a dull and unconvincing tale about second chances, with a half-baked streak of sci-fi that serves only to provide the screenwriters with a way out of their characters’ dilemma.
Cast: Brit Marling, William Mapother, Kumar Pallana, DJ Flava.
Director: Mike Cahill.
Screenwriters: Mike Cahill, Brit Marling.
Producers: Hunter Grey, Mike Cahill, Brit Marling.
A Fox Searchlight release. Running time: 92 minutes. Brief violence, sexual situations, adult themes. Opens Friday Aug. 12 iIn Miami-Dade: South Beach; in Broward: Gateway; in Palm Beach: Delray Beach, Palace.