Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Another Earth

It occurs to me as I'm writing this review, that Another Earth is being billed, in places, as a sci-fi/science-fantasy film. Having now watched the film, I can tell you with certainty that these are LIES. That doesn't mean that Another Earth is a bad film; on the contrary, it's quite a good one. But it's primarily a human drama, with a few fantastical elements on the margins serving the story.

The story is concerned with a woman named Rhoda who is out 'celebrating' her acceptance to MIT. When she drives home she takes a few seconds too long to look out the window of her car at a star which is reported to be a new planet in the same orbit as Earth...and slams straight into a car going the opposite direction. 4 years later she is released from prison and takes a job working as a janitor in a local high school. She then goes to the only survivor of the car wreck's house and tries to apologize to him, only to lose her nerve when she finds how much his life has fallen apart and instead ends up acting as a maid for him. And that's barely the first act.

All the things that need to be in place for a character oriented drama are in place in this one, in particular the acting. More or less newcomer Brit Marling is something close to a revelation, managing to relate Rhoda's guilt and self flagellation perfectly, despite a near lack of dialogue in the first act. It's somewhat understandable that strong work from William Mapother gets overshadowed, as while his role is just as important it's oftentimes much more straightforward. None of the other actors get a noticeable amount of screentime, but special mention must go to Kumar Pallana, shining in a tiny role.

The writing and editing are the next major stars, in particular the quiet understated grieving and guilt roles that the two main characters occupy. It's easy to forget the thin sci-fi elements exist until they come up in the plot, but don't think they're there just to make the poster more interesting. The sci-fi elements do come into play in the third act, in a way that helps the story immensely, but I really can't tell you how without spoiling it (and in a movie so story driven, spoilers are poison).

The editing and direction do their job admirably, emphasizing the characters and their emotions beautifully. A pair of sequences stick out in particular, one involving playing a saw (no, really) and the see the movie, if it's as good as I think it is, you should be able to recognize it immediately. The music is beautifully written and well utilized, often standing in for dialogue in the early parts of the film.

The flaws are clearly there, but never enough to hurt the film as a whole. Firstly there are some very odd directorial choices here and there, especially near the middle. The pace is a little wonky between the first and third acts, slowing down a little too much and then speeding way up. And finally, while it didn't bother me, the ending is going to bother a lot of people, simply because it comes out of nowhere.

Like with Tabloid this is an obscure art film, and I can't promise how much longer it's going to be in theaters or where. But while I'd recommend Tabloid ahead of this, if you get a chance you should really see Another Earth, if only because there's absolutely nothing else worth seeing out. At least, besides other art films. Come to think of it, I saw the first 2 minutes of The Future the other day and that looked good. Hm. See you next time.

Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and the Wii nearly redeemed itself in this film for a good bit of visual metaphor.

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