Regardless of how you feel about small budget indy films, there are times you have to admit there are things they can do that big budget blockbusters cannot. Just to give you an idea of how small the budget for Mike Cahill’s 2011 hit Another Earth was, accomplished actor William Mapother (who you may remember as Ethan from Lost if you had the patience to watch that far, and from an acclaimed role in In the Bedroom) agreed to work on the film for just $100 a day. Just to be clear, that is far less than I make as a teacher, damn, that’s less than I used to make bussing tables at a restaurant. The overall budget for the film is estimated to be around $100,000 which is still extremely small considering the traction this film received after its reception at Sundance. Yes, these lavish film festivals love to love indy films (whether for appearances or if they genuinely enjoy them, I can’t be certain), but there was a bidding war for this baby, eventually won by Fox Searchlight. Anyway, film industry stuff aside, not only is this film impressive for its low budget and high praise, it is the story, direction, and performances (not surprisingly) that make it one of my favourites and one I strongly recommend you check out.
Brit Marling stars as Rhoda (she also received a writing credit on the film), a young woman who let’s just say has life take a bit of a wrong turn when she gets into a car accident. The aftermath of the accident leaves her extremely guilty and completely without an obvious reason to continue to live her life with any fervour. She isn’t suicidal or anything, but she definitely is suffering from what some would call an existential crisis. Her interest is peaked, however, when she, along with the rest of humanity, learn that the strange object that has been approaching Earth for some time, is actually another planet that looks and sounds (yes, sounds) like the Earth we live in.
Look, I don’t want to spoil it, but think of the idea of multiple universes and say one of those universes includes the Earth just as we know it with a few differences. This planet is eloquently named ‘Earth Two’ and Rhoda writes a letter to be considered to be sent there as she has nothing holding her on good ol’ fashioned Earth One.
Once all this is established, Cahill is then able to explore the idea of what it might be like to meet a different version of oneself. Can you imagine? I have always wondered what it might be like to meet a version of myself who didn’t date that girl who drove me nuts in university. Maybe I would have a more optimistic perspective towards love. Or maybe (and more likely than not) I would have found someone else to drive me towards insanity and find myself in the same spot I’m in now. Either way, this film explores some very unique and thought-provoking ideas that one can’t help to identify with and wonder about. This includes ideas surrounding guilt and how to atone for one’s misdeads. When Rhoda goes looking for someone she feels deserves an apology (and he does, let me tell you), things don’t go exactly as planned and get…slightly complicated to say the least. When we feel distaste or pride for a character in a film that one can for Rhoda in this one, that’s when you know the director has a handle on what he wants to communicate. That is what Cahill does with this film.
The rawness of Cahill’s shooting style adds to the realism with shaky-cam shots and unflinching closeups, as well as painfully quiet scenes that feel all to real during awkward and tense moments. Rather than tense action scenes like most sci-fi movies seem to rely on, Cahill uses the real human drama unfolding in front of us to drive our emotions. Combined with performances from actors who obviously understand the story, Cahill’s storytelling is superb and engrossing even during a third or fourth viewing of this film.
If I were to have to provide you with only one reason to watch Another Earth it would be that the film reminds us as the audience to reflect on the choices we have made, both bad and good, and that while some of us may not need a reminder to do this, we can certainly see that all choices and mistakes lead us somewhere, and it is what we choose to do when faced with these circumstances that define how our own story will end. Phew, that was deep. Oh, and also, the ending is freakin’ crazy, be prepared to be blindsided.
Enjoy Another Earth! It used to be on Netflix, but now it’s not showing up for me. Take my word for it, it’s worth tracking this one down.
Giving Me that Indy Feeling
Sci-Fi for Days
Another Earth Trailer: