Greetings again from the darkness. An award winning film at Sundance, this one seems to carry the same polarizing effect that Tree of Life does. The reviews and comments have been discordant and contentious. After sitting through a Q&A with Mike Cahill (co-writer, director) and Brit Marling (co-writer, star) I feel confident they are taking great pride in the love/hate responses. Their film was designed to take you deep … make you think and self-analyze. This is not a fluffy Owen Wilson rom-com. Explaining what it is, well, that’s a challenge.
The story begins with Rhoda (Brit Marling) out for a night of partying. We learn she has been accepted to M.I.T. and that she is quite the space and astronomy lover. Her very poor decision to drive home after drinking results in a horrific accident that changes her life and that of a young family. At the same time, scientists discover “another Earth” has been hiding on the other side of the sun. Flash forward four years as Rhoda is released from prison.
She is a broken spirit whose bright future has been dashed. She tracks down the man who survived the crash she caused and has every intention of apologizing. Instead, she cleans his house. She discovers John (William Mapother) has dropped out of society and found numbness in the bottle.
I won’t say more about the story because it is really is a joy to watch it unfold. What I will say is that I found the trailer to be somewhat misleading. This is not a sci-fi film per se. Sure the second earth brings about numerous questions concerning the “other” us. What would we say? How would we react? Have I done better there than here? But that is actually an underlying element to this story … always present in our thoughts and those of Rhoda. Instead, this film is a psychological drama. And a dark one at that.
And a good one.
You will recognize William Mapother (The Grudge, “Lost”), who plays John. He has a regular guy look to him and stretches well from happiness to depression to, once again, showing a spark of life. Brit Marling is one you don’t know, but will soon enough. She is an amazing presence on screen and avoids the Hollywood acting crutches. She plays Rhoda as the damaged, confused creature she is in the story. Very well done.
A couple of other interesting notes include Kumar Pallana (The Royal Tenenbaums)as Purdeep. With minimal screen time, his character provides Rhoda with a lesson she needs. There is also a scene where John plays a saw as a musical instrument. The sound is amazing and the music is actually from Natalia Paruz, who is known as the “saw lady”. Other music in the film is outstanding and courtesy of Fall on Your Sword. Very unique, but a perfect fit for the film.
Keep an open mind and enjoy low-budget independent filmmaking at its finest. The special effects are a minimum, but the drama is full force. The ending is open to interpretation … these aren’t the type of filmmakers who spoon feed the viewers. I believe we will see much more from Mr. Cahill and Ms. Marling.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you not only wonder what it would be like to face yourself in a parallel universe, but also enjoy the pyschology that goes with trying to forgive one’s self
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are expecting a hard core sci-fi exploration of Earth II and the complimentary personalities that are hinted at
Watch the trailer: