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A World Apart: Mike Cahill’s “Another Earth”

A World Apart: Mike Cahill's "Another Earth"

At first, Mike Cahill’s Another Earth appears to announce itself as a treatise on regret via the lingering consequences of a fatal car accident. Over its ninety-minute runtime, however, Cahill’s film is gradually revealed to be more concerned with redemption and the possibility of a new start. This comes in the form of the title planet, a literally extraterrestrial body which, over the course of four years, drifts ever closer toward earth until it’s a constantly looming presence in both the day- and nighttime skies. Despite serving as the backdrop of countless scenes, the uncanny sight of Earth 2 never quite loses its power. Almost immediately, it becomes inextricably linked to remorse and forgiveness; the above-mentioned car wreck occurs immediately after the discovery of the planet, when 17-year-old Rhoda (an excellent Brit Marling, who co-wrote the screenplay with Cahill) drives head on into a car carrying a family of three. Already her fate is interwoven with that of Earth 2: the faint blue dot that she’s gazing at instead of the road changes her world well before it changes anyone else’s. Contemporary celestial films such as Contact and Moon have proven best when their sci-fi trappings are a means of drawing us in to a more personal story rather than an end in and of themselves, and Another Earth distinguishes itself by being centered around a character who actually deserves the attention we’re asked to give her. This isn’t owed to the particulars of Rhoda’s situation as much as to her nuanced, largely internalized response to it. Read Michael Nordine’s review of Another Earth.

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