Weekend Review: Another Earth

This independent film about the appearance of a mirror world received acclaim at Sundance last year, and decidedly mixed reviews elsewhere.

Is it worth seeking out?

Title: Another Earth

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Mike Cahill

Written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling.

Brit Marling as Rhoda Williams
William Mapother as John Burroughs
Matthew-Lee Erlbach as Alex
DJ Flava as Himself
Meggan Lennon as Maya Burroughs
AJ Diana as Amos Burroughs

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.


A brainy high schooler, intoxicated by her acceptance by MIT, drunk on alcohol, and distracted by the sudden appearance of another earth in the sky, causes a fatal accident.

Four years later, she becomes obsessed with the man whose family she killed— and keen to win a contest that will make her the averagenaut on a journey to the new world.

High Points:

The film features a jarring and mind-bending opening that bodes well for the rest of the film. What follows contains some fine moments and poetic set pieces, but overall, fails to measure up that scene.

The notion that everyone has a duplicate living a parallel life, likewise, raises interesting questions, which Another Earth, unfortunately, doesn’t explore.

Low Points:

I’ll accept that, for reasons never explained, the mirror earth exists, and somehow has no physical affect on our earth, despite being a short distance away. It’s part of the film’s premise. I have a harder time with the fact that it has so little affect on people: no widespread panic, no significant mass movements, no significant fear. Apparently, the appearance of a new world careening towards earth prompts a lot of naval-gazing.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 Mirror earths have been around SF for a very long time. They can even be found in classic Star Trek and mainstream comics. Some of this film’s key concerns were raised on the big screen in 1969’s memorable Journey to the Far Side of the Sun.

Effects: 5/6 The low-budget effects generally work well, and the night shots impressed me. Only the sky over the beach looked obviously artificial.

Acting: 5/6: The film features some strong performance. William Mapother was uneven as John Burroughs, and I did not consistently believe his character. I was impressed by Brit Marling, a solid actor in a difficult role….

Story: 3/6 …But perhaps not so accomplished a writer.

This film features two main plots, which come together at the end in an almost-clever manner. For the most part, however, we’re watching two disjointed and incomplete films. The second earth looks great in multiple well-wrought shots and makes a passable metaphor for, well, something about human nature and the universe and stuff, but the film never really explores that metaphor in a satisfying manner, nor does it make the momentous, if impossible, discover, terribly interesting.

The second story, about the relationship between Rhoda and John, contains many strong moments, but it fails to adequately explore the profound emotional experiences each character has undergone.

As a bonus, we have a rather pointless subplot that meanders in and out of the film. Overall, I felt like a great deal of talent had been devoted to shooting the early draft of a screenplay by a young writer who had an ending but no clear direction.

Production: 4/6 Dear Filmmakers, especially of the Indie Variety:

Please cut back on the shaky-cam.


Emotional Response: 3/6

Overall: 3/6.

In total, Another Earth receives 25/42.

Lingering Questions

1. Why don’t we have pictures of Earth-2 taken with the Hubble telescope, among other instruments?

2-3.How does the “theory” revealed on television near the end make any kind of sense? How would someone even arrive at such a “theory?” And why does a student of science take seriously some New Age pseudobabble peddled by some guy on tv?

4. So, first prize, a trip to another planet, is transferable?