Somber indie ‘Another Earth’ creates a haunting mood

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Friday, August 5, 2011 12:01am
  • Life

The science fiction in “Another Earth” is somewhat shaky on the science, but certainly imaginative in the fiction. This Sundance prize-winner takes a moody-indie approach to a poignant fable of grief.

In the opening minutes, a terrible drunk-driving accident permanently affects the lives of t

wo strangers. Hopping ahead four years, we pick up the stories of the two people as they meet again.

Rhoda (played by Brit Marling, who also co-wrote the screenplay) is the driver at fault in the crash. She has the idea to make contact with the music professor (William Mapother) whose family died in the accident.

Instead of revealing her identity, she poses as a maid-for-hire, and comes into the man’s life in a furtive way.

Where’s the sci-fi? It looms overhead, quite literally. The sky has lately been filled with another planet, a kind of mirror Earth that hovers above, causing all sorts of speculation about its meaning.

This may not be terribly credible as scientific possibility, but it presents the intriguing idea that this second Earth could contain a duplicate of everything on this one, including every person alive.

As the chamber drama of the two people unfolds, you also play with the fantastical Earth II concept. Director and co-writer Mike Cahill, with his debut film, keeps the atmosphere dark and somber, as befits the situation.

It’s a promising debut, and Cahill has a secret weapon in the central performance by Marling, a compelling actress who will definitely be moving up the ladder after this turn. Opposite her, Mapother, Tom Cruise’s brother, provides a convincingly beaten-up presence.

I’m a sucker for this kind of thoughtful sci-fi, and definitely recommend it to anybody with a bent for that realm. I have to confess I think the movie falls short in some of its larger ambitions, and overall feels a little too precise, a little too fitted-together to really breathe on its own.

But haunting? That it is. Nowhere more so than in the simple spectacle of that second blue Earth hanging there in the sky, as though silently divesting mankind of the foolish notion of being special.

“Another Earth” 2½ stars

Two people work on their grief in the aftermath of a terrible accident, while overhead a second planet Earth — apparently a perfect duplicate for this one — fills the sky. This indie might be a little too worked-out to really breathe on its own, but it’s got a haunting mood and a compelling central performance by Brit Marling.

Rated: PG-13 for subject matter

Showing: Harvard Exit

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