Indie & Foreign
Another Earth (2011)

An average indie movie that never comes close to living up to its fantastic premise. I guess "Janitor Girl's Adventures in Guilt" doesn't sell movie tickets, so we're stuck instead with watching the drama unfold with shots of another Earth up in the sky.


A meditation on guilt wrapped in a ham-fisted metaphor.

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[do action=”moment” emo=”Disappointing” title=”Someone tell that cameraman to lay off the coffee.”/]

Right off the bat we’re faced with the inalienable fact that this is very much an indie movie, thanks to unnecessary abrupt camera movements and overwrought direction. The scene with Rhoda reflected in her side-view mirror is the perfect example of the director trying to be too clever for his own good. It robs the scene of the emotional impact of seeing Rhoda’s face without distraction as she is about to cross an important threshold in her life. Likewise, the car crash is cleverly shot, but robbed of most of its emotional impact.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Disappointing” title=”Another Earth appears. Boring life goes on.”/]

Why this movie decides to gloss over the appearance of a second Earth in the sky, yet lingers on long shots of Rhoda rejoining her family life, is a bit beyond me. I guess it’s meant to be clever, but I think something as improbable and life-altering as a mirror planet showing up one day deserves more than background chatter. For crissakes, the characters barely acknowledge it’s there.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Interesting” title=”This man needs a housecleaning more than an apology.”/]

As Rhoda and the man whose life she destroyed begin to interact, we start getting a sense of the emotional core of the film. Unsurprisingly, it has nothing to do with Earth-2, which makes this movie less a SF flick and more of a metaphor for guilt and regret. I’m fine with this, except that Earth-2 has no relevance to the plot at all. It doesn’t guide Rhoda’s decisions, or expose the nature of her guilt. It makes the concept of a second Earth more of a marketing gimmick than a true cinematic texture, and that’s a shame.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Puzzling” title=”The old Indian janitor used eye bleach literally.”/]

The whole Indian janitor who’s been giving Rhoda some quality ethnic insight into her first world problems has apparently turned himself deaf and blind by pouring bleach into his eyes and ears. I have no damn clue what this is supposed to mean.

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Rhoda and John go at it like awkward bunnies. Yeah, I got the part where they were growing closer and even falling in love, but this is a stretch.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Intense” title=”Rhoda finally spills the beans to John.”/]

A good scene, although marred by the too-clever way Rhoda decides to tell her story in third person to John, as it gives the actress much less to work with than if it was a sincere, sputtering admission of guilt. Sadly, John’s reaction is nothing if not predictable. Guess it’s time for Rhoda to become an astronaut.

[do action=”moment” emo=”Infuriating” title=”You were expecting closure? Haha, fuck you.”/]

Aaaand fuck this movie. Just when it’s about to tackle its central metaphor, it cops out by sending John to Earth-2 off-camera. Which raises two awkward questions. One, what does John do when he gets to Earth-2 and find his wife, kid, and himself there? And two, are you telling me Rhoda had an actual transferable ticket to go to Earth-2? Oh, and that second Rhoda showing up at the end? That would have made a fantastic third act, except apparently this is when the director got bored and stopped writing. This sucks.

4 Comments on Another Earth (2011)

  1. I too have mixed feelings over this one as well. I guess you can give it praise for trying to do something different with the sci-fi genre but then again, is it really a sci-fi film? It’s much more of a drama with a tiny touch of sci-fi.

    I also noticed the lack of interest characters had concerning the arrival of Earth 2. After viewing the film, however, I thought that this was exactly what we, ordinary people who don’t work for space agencies, would do. We wouldn’t change our habits. The vast majority of us would probably keep living our daily routine. The difference is, when we would have some spare time, we would look upwards and ask ourselves a series of “What if?” questions.

    Of course, it would have been much more stimulating if Earth 1 and Earth 2 humans interacted throughout the movie. I think the final scene indicates that Mike Cahill and Brit Marling simply didn’t know how to handle the sci-fi elements of their movie and they decided not to venture too deep into the potentially nonsensical maze of science fiction. They missed a good opportunity because the whole “Me talking to a copy of me” plot still has a lot of fresh content to offer. Duncan Jones’ “Moon” starring Sam Rockwell proved it in 2009.

    • Yeah, I agree with you about the ending. As much as I try, I just see it as a failure of imagination on the screenwriters’ part.

      About the impact–or lack thereof–of an Earth 2 appearing in the sky… I dunno if I buy the idea that it would have no important impact. I remember for instance how much things seemed to change after 9/11… Even up in Canada, people were changed by it. It colored the days of everyone following the event. It was like a shadow looming over things.

      I’m not saying society would devolve into chaos or anything like that, but imagine if we established contact with an alien life form… Sure, we’d still have jobs to go to, but it would be SO immense that it would color the daily lives of billions. It would keep coming up in conversations, and people would use it to justify some crazy decisions they had at the backs of their minds. Some would even transform their lives, seized by the notion that everything is now different in the world. Life would go on, but it wouldn’t be left unaffected the way it was in Another Earth, I think.

      It’s all a bit speculative, but I think that just having the characters ignore it is, again, a failure of imagination.

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