Plot: What’s it about?
I’ve always been fascinated by the possibility or the conception that there’s something else out there. There is. I’m certain of it. Maybe what’s more intriguing is the possibility of an alternate timeline or an alternate universe. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in “The Beach” used this line to try and pick up Virginie Ledoyen’s character. It didn’t work. But think about it. What if, somewhere out there, there’s an alternate universe with another you there? Everything was the same. They had a William Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, World Wars…the possibilities are endless. And, in a way, that’s the premise behind “Another Earth.” This, however, is a drama with the science-fiction aspect of it as a back story. Admittedly I was somewhat curious about the whole “getting to the second Earth” thing, but that’s a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. This isn’t. Still, I was watching TV a few months back and saw a review for this and have been waiting for it to arrive on Blu-ray. The wait is over.
Rhoda (Brit Marling) is seventeen years old. She’s just been accepted in M.I.T. and is partying hard. She’s driving home and hears an announcement on the radio of another Earth. She glances out the window, stares perplexed and runs smack into a family at an intersection – killing the mother and child. Four years pass and Rhoda’s released from prison. She’s tired, emotionally spent and down on life. She’s guilt-ridden. She moves back home where her family welcomes her with open arms. She takes a job at a local high school as the janitor (against the better wishes of her parole officer). After doing some research, she tracks down the survivor of the accident who, as it turns out, is John Burroughs (William Mapother) a once professor at Yale University. John has taken the loss of his wife and child hard. He lives in the country and he drinks. A lot. Rhoda’s initial intent is to apologize, but instead she masquerades as a cleaning woman. The two get to know one another, but there’s always the truth lingering in the background. Will Rhoda ever confess her dark secret and what of the alternate Earth?
“Another Earth” isn’t so much a science-fiction movie as it is a character study. There’s not a lot of action here, but the two leads do an outstanding job in their respective roles. Actress Brit Marling also helped produce and write the movie (a fact they milk in every featurette), but the “less is more” sentiment really works here. For those that might recognize William Mapother, he’s been around for a while with some notable roles in television’s “Lost” and in some other films like “Mission: Impossible II” and “In the Bedroom.” Oh, he’s also the cousin of Tom Cruise. “Another Earth” reminds me of several other films, namely Andrey Tarkovskiy’s “Solaris” and John Sayles’ “Limbo.” The film also won the Special Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and that’s saying something. There’s proof that you don’t need $100 million budgets to make something entertaining. Like last year’s “Rabbit Hole” this spoke to me and I can’t recommend it enough.
Video: How does it look?
The 1.78:1 AVC HD image has some ups and downs. First off, I want to let viewers know that this was shot on a Sony digital camcorder. There wasn’t some $50,000 high end camera doing the work here. Still, there are certain scenes when the image is so amazingly clear it’s uncanny. I could see the goose bumps on Rhoda’s chest when she went to lay in the snow. The clock in the truck that read “2:26” and so forth. There are also some shots, mainly of the sky, that are so gritty they look like someone took sandpaper to the film (even though there’s no film). This was done intentionally, of course. There wasn’t some big crew with lighting and makeup, so the natural darkness of the sky or the surroundings made the film that much more realistic. This is a testament to both Blu-ray and digital filmmaking as a whole though, as the majority of this film looked pretty darn good.
Audio: How does it sound?
The box says that there’s a DTS HD Master Audio track that accompanies this movie, but it doesn’t really pack a punch. Then again, I didn’t expect it to. The soundtrack is very organic and reminded me of “The Social Network” in regards to sound quality and texture. Dialogue is the highlight here with very clear and focused vocals. William Mapother’s booming voice comes through clean and clear. There are some faint surrounds that make their presence known, but again – the budget was so small that most of the finances were dedicated to getting the word out as opposed to adding faux surround noises. Concurrent with a dialogue-driven film, “Another Earth” sounds just fine and certainly serves its purpose.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As much as I’d have loved to hear a commentary track on this film, there isn’t one. We do get a sampling of supplements, though. First up are some deleted scenes and, while interesting, would have slowed down the pacing of the film if left in. “The Science Behind ‘Another Earth'” isn’t really that, rather it tells of the origins of the story and how it all came to be. “Creating ‘Another Earth'” is actually more of the same with interviews with director/producer/writer Mike Cahill and Brit Marling as they tell us of the challenges of getting the word of the film out and so forth. Fox Movie Channel ran a trio of featurettes that are all included here. First is “Direct Effect with Mike Cahill” as he tells us of how he cut some corners, shooting in his hometown of New Haven, CT. How he got his police friend to close off roads, shot in the high school at night and so forth. Amazing how far you can pinch a penny when you need to. We then have two more interviews, one with Brit Marling and the other with William Mapother as they both tell us of how the project came to be, how Mapother’s interest in the film helped them out and so forth. Lastly we have a music video “The First Time I Saw Jupiter” by Fall on Your Sword.