May 10, 2011

SFIFF54: "Another Earth" Explores Guilt and Redemption

12:46 PM

Another Earth opens with a promising young high school grad Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) who has a bright future ahead at MIT. After partying she drives home and the radio announces a strange planet that has suddenly appeared in the sky. Distracted by this news, Rhoda continuously looks out the window and ends up veering head on in to another car. The accident puts John Burroughs (William Mapother of Lost fame) in the hospital and kills his pregnant wife and son.

Four years later Rhoda is released from prison and she struggles with the guilt of the accident. John is out of the hospital but is in a terrible depression. Meanwhile the world is talking about the strange planet, dubbed Earth 2, which turns out to be a mirror image of Earth. A company offers an essay contest for a ticket for the first visit to Earth 2 and Rhoda writes in. She shares her story of being a felon with nothing to lose and hopes for the chance to start over.

Rhoda also eventually decides to confront John and apologize for what she has done. She goes to his home and once she is standing face to face with him however, she loses her nerve and instead makes up a lie that she is with a cleaning service offering a free trial. Upon entering his home Rhoda sees that John's home reflects his mental state. John is always alone, there are mile-high stacks of dirty dishes, unorganized books piled haphazardly in every room and empty bottles of alcohol around every corner. She returns to his home every week in hopes of finally telling him the truth but she again loses her nerve and continues to clean for John instead. As time goes on, John begins to have conversations with Rhoda and enjoys her company. Eventually a friendship is born. This friendship that they develop brings out a happier, higher-spirited John so Rhoda, believing she is helping him, decides to concede from telling him the truth.

Soon after their friendship is born, Rhoda finds out that she is the winner of the essay contest and receives her tickets to Earth 2.

It's definitely worth warning Sci-Fi fans that the Sci-Fi in Another Earth is filled with a lot of holes. The actual impact of a second earth that continuously gets closer to our earth is not explored nor addressed. Although there is a poignant moment when a news broadcaster makes the first attempt to communicate with Earth 2 (as seen in the trailer), the Sci-Fi acts as more of a symbol, not something with rich detail nor reminiscent of more hardcore Sci-Fi films. "Sci-Fi Ultra Lite" is the best way to describe it.

That said, I am a big Sci-Fi fan so initially I was a little let down, but as the film went on I was drawn in to the drama of the story. The focus and exploration of the relationship that develops between the two main characters, how Rhoda deals with her past and deluding John is both engaging and intriguing. Two two characters are developed in the film to be very likeable, even Rhoda, as she is portrayed truly feeling deep, inescapable remorse for her actions and feels hopelessly desperate for a way to erase what she has done. It's a moving dramatic film with a Sci-Fi element that acts as a symbol of possible redemption and a chance to start over.

Watch the trailer:

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