'Another Earth' review / Susan Granger
If you enjoy brainy sci-fi, this winner of the Alfred P. Sloan award at Sundance this year has a haunting premise: a parallel world on which another version of you lives.
Teenage aspiring MIT astrophysicist Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) is out partying with friends one night and, driving, drunk and distracted, her car careens into another, killing two out its three occupants: a mother and child. After four years in prison, Rhoda returns home and begins rebuilding her life, working as a high-school janitor. Overwhelmed with guilt about the fatal accident and trying to make amends, she becomes a weekend house-cleaner for John Burroughs (William Mopather), the distraught, grief-stricken husband whose family she destroyed -- without telling him who she is or what she did. Though she intends to apologize, she loses her nerve, and an uneasy friendship develops between these damaged, lonely people.
In the meantime, a mysterious phenomenon has occurred. Another Earth has appeared in the sky. It's a mirror-image sphere on which scientists speculate every human has a doppelganger. Gazing at it, day after day, night after night, Rhoda views it as some kind of redemptive second chance. So she enters a contest for a seat aboard a spacecraft that's being launched to investigate the strange planet.
Obviously filmed on a micro-budget, "Another Earth" was shot in and around New Haven, Connecticut, so residents will recognize many Yale landmarks and locales. While the minimalist, melancholy drama remains subdued, the individual performances are riveting.
Co-writer/actress 27 year-old Brit Marling is a Georgetown University valedictorian who decided to create her own film so she wouldn't have to play typical parts offered to young actresses. While interning at Goldman Sachs, she befriended writer/director Mike Cahill, and moved to Cuba for a year to make the documentary "Boxers and Ballerinas" about young athletes faced with the question of defecting. As for William Mopather, he's Tom Cruise's cousin with an impressive resume of his own.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Another Earth" is a stimulating 7, provoking philosophical discussion afterward.