I didn’t know what to expect from this movie, but I’m a sucker for indie sci-fi movies. I think sci-fi concepts open up a huge realm of storytelling — it’s a great way to explore dramatic and philosophical questions. Anyway, in this case, Another Earth is mostly a human drama about a teenage girl, Rhoda, who causes a car accident that kills a woman and her child, leaving the husband/father in a coma. When she gets out of detention four years later, she has a hard time living her life, but she manages to get a job as a janitor and one day tries to go to the victims’ home to apologize. She loses her nerve and pretends to be a house-cleaner. Having suffered depression after his loss, his life and home in disarray, John (played by William Mapother, who also played Ethan on Lost) reluctantly accepts her offer of maid service — but he doesn’t realize who she is. Gradually they both start to regain a sense of hope and begin to live again. The sci-fi part is more of a backdrop against which this main story is told. Some time before the movie begins, there is the discovery of an Earth-like planet that is gradually approaching. As it gets closer, people begin to realize that it’s actually a duplicate Earth with mirror images of the people on this planet. Rhoda enters a contest to win a seat on the space shuttle that is planning to go to Earth 2. Fair warning: even that summary makes it seem like this movie is a lot more about the idea of Earth 2 than it actually is. Maybe 10% of the movie is about that. What it’s really about is the relationship between Rhoda and John as they grow closer. I have to say that it was a hard movie to watch because I kept holding my breath for that moment when John learns the truth about Rhoda’s identity. In that regard, both lead actors gave engaging, natural performances. I kept wondering how this situation would play out any differently than I expected.
I assume that the idea of Earth 2 as a motif is about alternate reality; that there is a version of you or me out there who has made different choices — and in this case, how it plays into guilt and forgiveness. I think that’s a great concept to explore, but I feel like this movie was a bit too subtle with the sci-fi. It didn’t really come back into the movie until near the end when we find out about whether Rhoda gets to go on the space flight. A lot of things happen that lead to the somewhat cryptic conclusion of the film, and I’m still not sure what the point was. I don’t like that aspect of indie sci-fi. Even in normal indie films there is too often the attempt to be more artsy or profound by leaving things open ended or ambiguous. That gets amplified by a sci-fi conceit because the filmmaker has the ability to challenge reality altogether. I don’t appreciate being left wondering about what actually happened to these characters on top of whether and how their emotional situations got resolved. Maybe indie writers/producers/directors find that too pedantic (and for a lot of the Hollywood sci-fi I would agree), but let’s try to find middle ground between obvious and obscure, OK? (3.5 out of 5)