Tuesday, January 10, 2012
In Praise of Another Earth
Hiding in its orbit among the other "celestial offerings" in 2011 celluloid, and on the surface consisting of the science fiction premise that another earth has appeared suddenly within our solar system, Another Earth has a parallel, other film existing alongside it, that is circumspect to the foibles and randomness of human choice and interactions. Second chances, second loves, a better twin looking curiously into the sky wondering "if..." are the makings of a quiet masterpiece.
A first effort (ironically, also a twin, as the young writer was simultaneously writing The Sound of My Voice when she penned Another Earth) by Brit Marling, the screenplay drips with the delicate prose and utterly personal (if not a little self indulgent, appropos to the writers' age and experience) portrayal of the possibility of youth cut short by a single bad choice.
Rhoda is all full of herself, her acceptance to MIT, and about a liter of hooch when she takes the wheel of her family's SUV on her way back from a party, feels her face in the wind and is distracted by the night air, the discovery of the hidden planet and the feeling of freedom, of possiblity, when she drives into a car that sits at a red light, holding the family of a celebrated composer, played by the always wonderfully real William Mapother. In that one moment, they both lose everything. The composer loses his family (though he survives after a long coma), his career and his drive to write music (or do anything except take pills and wallow in his loss from his couch). Rhoda loses her future as an MIT astrophysicist, and every ounce of belief in herself.
After serving a four year prison sentence for the multiple manslaughter, Rhoda finds herself in a life she certainly never imagined, and by all appearances has not forgiven herself for causing the tragedy. By this time, a australian accented billionaire has decided to launch a trip to "earth 2" and Rhoda's search for herself - her other self - begins.
The acting isn't so much acting as it is breathing. You can't see the work. Marling is a natural, Mapother (see In the Bedroom again if you missed it the first time)gives his usual raw, painfully accurate and patient best, and the supporting cast does their damn job and stays willfully within the fabric of the story. It is well cast, well edited, well lit, well done. The direction (and co authoring) by Mike Cahill is transparent. This is no Blair Witch foibling around with the steady-cam - ie it's not dated. It's timeless.
"do you think THEY call themselves 'earth 2?' "
The search for self, for reconciliation, for forgiveness, and ultimately, for meaning are explored through the imagination of a talented new writer whose star is rising. Please, for the love of all things simple and pure, I hope she continues to make only small, beautiful, independent films.
It's late, I'm feeling romantic, and my memory fades as I write this, but see this one. If you count my twin, four thumbs up.