There is something miraculous about a movie that has huge ambitions, is able to surpass those huge ambitions, and land somewhere between transcendent and exuberant. What's even more miraculous? The reported $150,000 it cost to make.
I'd like to take a minute to comment on this $150,000 budget. This idea could have easily been turned into a big-budget explosiathon (my new word of choice for any film resembling a Michael Bay picture), an outcome that would have lost the movie's credibility and directorial edge by Mike Cahill. It is a delight to know that someone out there knows how to tell a story without the fixation of the almighty dollar. I for one am deeply in love with this version of Another Earth, a startling and fascinating story about turning a personal tragedy into potential catharsis.
Imagine you're a high school senior. You've just been accepted into your dream school and everything in your life is going to plan. That's what Rhonda Williams (a stunning performance from Brit Marling) had going for her, until one fateful mistake. On the night of her celebration into getting MIT, Rhonda gets drunk and drives right into another vehicle, killing a mother and child, and emotionally paralyzing the father. But not right before she sees something, something in the sky. Something that's similar to something she's seen a million times before, but never in the sky. It is another earth.
On this earth though, Rhonda spends four years in jail, and upon her release, she lives at home working as a janitor. Losing everything has made her become a sad soul. In order to regain it, she must act like there's nothing to lose. Rhonda seeks out the father, John Burroughs (William Mapother), hoping to confess her crimes, as he does not know who the culprit is that took his whole life away in a matter of seconds. When she approaches his doorstep, she retreats, and instead tells him that she is willing to clean his house for him as a service. He agrees, but with the rough state he and his physical surroundings have become, he doesn't really have a choice.
There is a growth in Rhonda and John's relationship that I do not want to directly give away, but I will say that at first glance is may feel a bit like a soap opera, but it is within the depth of the characters and the performances of its stars that allow us to believe the actions that we see.
So in all this, you're asking yourself, what does this have to do with another earth? As this is all taking place, the talk of this world has been about the discussion of the other in its vision. When NASA decides to send astronauts and a lucky few to explore the new terrain, Rhonda decides that her story is heartbreaking enough that she just may be in deserving of a new start. Then again, doesn't everyone? Another Earth discusses the themes of vulnerability, uncertainty, and hope, all within the confines of a film that dares to be something completely different than the rest.
And all the better for it.