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DVD Review: Another Earth

November 29, 2011

Another Earth – A 20th Century Fox Release

DVD Release Date: November 29th, 2011

Rated 14A for sexual content and mature themes

Running time: 92 minutes

Mike Cahill (dir.)

Mike Cahill (writer)

Brit Marling (writer)

Fall On Your Sword (music)

William Mapother as John Burroughs

Brit Marling as Rhoda Williams

Jordan Baker as Kim Williams

Matthew-Lee Erlbach as Alex

Our reviews below:


Another Earth DVD Review By John C.

** (out of 4)

On the same night that a duplicate planet Earth is first seen in the sky, aspiring astrophysicist Rhoda (co-writer Brit Marling) is drunk-driving home from a party when her car kills the family of music professor John Burroughs (William Mapother).  After four years in jail, she finds herself going to apologize, but ends up both physically and metaphorically cleaning up his life.  The two start a budding romance, but we know that things can only go on for so long before he finds out who she is.  There is also an essay contest offering a trip to Earth 2, and the opportunity to see what your life is like in an alternate universe.

Directed and co-written by Mike Cahill, Another Earth is okay as a believable independent film about two lost souls who are connecting through tragedy, but the sci-fi elements aren’t developed enough to seem natural and sometimes feel like they were just put there to pad out the running time.  The purposefully amateur camera work and editing just makes the film look cheap.  The performances and story are fine, but Another Earth ultimately doesn’t live up to the promise of the title or overall premise.  Some might be deeply moved by the film, but for me it just didn’t quite add up.

The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes, a music video and several featurettes.


Another Earth DVD Review by Erin V.  

** (out of 4)

On the night of the discovery of ‘Earth II,’ an identical planet Earth in our solar system that may have copies of us on it, Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) – an ambitious young student who’s just been accepted at MIT – accidentally crashes her car into another while driving drunk, causing the only survivor of that crash, John Burroughs (William Mapother), to lose his wife and two children.

After four years, Rhoda seeks John out to apologize to him, but loses her nerve at the door and pretends to be a housekeeper instead.  Believing her cover, he goes so far as to invite her in to clean his house, and she feels no choice but to accept.  As Rhoda was 17 at the time of the accident, John never knew who she was.  Over the course of the film, she comes back week after week, keeping up the ruse, hoping that in some way she is making his life a little easier again.

The production values here are not that good.  The sound is oftentimes blown out – not something really welcome in a fiction-feature as it calls attention to the fact that this is being done with a microphone in the room – and the camera work and editing is choppy at best.  Shots are framed badly, and like a lot of indie films, someone needs to put a piece of tape over the zoom toggle.  Fast zooming into a character’s expression doesn’t work and takes you out of what you are watching because ‘zoom’ is the only unnatural eye movement you’ll see on screen.  (Panning is walking parallel, dollying is walking towards, etc.  But your eyes can’t zoom in – that’s why it’s so jarring and takes you out of the film.)

In terms of the execution of the story, in classic indie style, the film focuses almost solely on the two main character’s relationship, as it develops into something more complicated – especially with the secret she is keeping from him.  This part of the film is well-enough made, well acted, and interesting.  It feels like a quiet human drama you’d see at a festival.  But then, there’s the ‘other Earth’ stuff.

Completely needless to the storyline, it is never really developed, and the musings of the character could have just as easily been done through something else.  There is a contest mentioned a few times throughout to win a trip to ‘Earth II,’ which Rhoda enters and it plays a brief role in the film, but again, without much development these plot points could have been replaced by others.  Overall, with the poster and the way the trailer is edited, we end up being left feeling like we were misled as to what the film was about.  It is not a sci-fi film about another Earth, but rather a high-concept (low-delivery) that almost tricks an audience who wouldn’t normally watch a human-drama indie into the film.  I don’t mind either – just choose what your film will be and deliver.

The idea of ‘What if there was another you who didn’t make the same mistakes?’ is interesting although never really explored, so it feels like there are two movies here – with the sci-fi one being completely sidelined.  Despite maybe not garnering as much attention, this one would have been far better had it just been a straight drama.  The mesh doesn’t work in this instance.  If you are looking for an indie about two lives intersecting through tragedy, check this one out – but if you want sci-fi, there’s really not much here for you.


Another Earth DVD Review By Nicole

** (out of 4)

When I first heard of Another Earth, I thought the movie would be an interesting look at what it would be like if there were a parallel world.  While the film does touch on that concept, it is mainly a drama about two people brought together by tragedy.  Rhoda (Brit Marling) is a young woman who caused a drunk driving accident when she was 17, widowing John Burroughs (William Mapother) and killing his kids.  Four years later, when she is released from prison, she decides to track John down.  They fall in love, only she hasn’t told him her past.

This storyline is fine, but the plot about Earth 2 is just tacked on to get people to watch this somewhat boring film.  The camera work is grainy and unsteady, and the editing is choppy.  We don’t even get to see Earth 2, except in the sky, where it keeps getting bigger for no apparent reason.  The films ending leaves one with a lot of questions.  The movie ends just as the visit to Earth 2 begins, which is frustrating.  I would have liked to have seen what impact visiting an exact parallel world would have, and what it would be like to visit your alter-ego.  Another Earth does not deliver any of what you want from this premise.  However, the acting is decent, and Another Earth is an adequate filmmaker’s debut that is worth renting if you are interested in independent dramatic films.


Another Earth DVD Review By Maureen

** (out of 4)

The premise of a duplicate planet Earth existing with a double of each person living on the second planet is an intriguing one.  It’s too bad that the indie film, Another Earth didn’t focus more on Earth 2 rather than revolving the story around two individuals on Earth 1 whose lives are changed by a tragic accident.

Rhoda (Brit Marling) is a 17-year-old astrophysics student who drives drunk after her graduation party and hits a family vehicle head on.  A young boy and his pregnant mother are killed instantly.  Only the father, music professor John Burroughs (William Mapother) survives the crash and a coma.  When Rhoda is released from prison four years later she seeks out Burroughs to try to make amends.  Rhoda gets close to John Burroughs (who has little memory of the accident) by working as his cleaning lady.  The two develop feelings for one another and deal with their grief.

The core storyline of Rhoda and John moving through the pain of their past is solid in terms of drama.  However the plot line about the two earths seems more like an add-on to attract attention for the film.  So much more could have been done with the other earth storyline.  Instead it felt like there were two different movies going on.  In terms of production, Another Earth is mediocre at best.  The filming and editing feels choppy at times and the lighting, dark.  The acting by the two leads, especially co-writer Brit Marling is fine.  The story however felt like just another drama.  Indie and film festival fans may want to check out Another Earth as a rental.


Another Earth DVD Review By Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Another Earth begins with Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) celebrating her acceptance into MIT with some drinking. Driving home on a rural Connecticut road, she looks up upon hearing news of a planet’s discovery, causing a tragic accident. After four years in prison, she takes a job as a school janitor and looks up the person who’s life she ruined by the accident, former composer and Yale professor John Burroughs (William Mapother), living depressed and alone in his country house unaware of Rhoda’s identity (undisclosed at the time on account of her minor status). Rhoda knocks on his door posing as a worker who will clean his house over a number of weekly visits.

Meanwhile, as the planet comes nearer, it is recognized as a parallel version dubbed Earth 2, with identical people living the same lives until the moment of discovery. Hoping to meet her other self with a better outcome than her own, Rhoda enters a letter-writing contest sponsored by an Australian tycoon (Rupert Reid) to win a place on a ship to visit Earth 2. As a relationship develops between Rhoda and John, she finally confesses to him, with interesting results once the contest winner is announced.

Given its ambitious premise despite modest resources, Another Earth is by no means a polished film and inevitably suffers from inconsistencies. If you expect special effects you will be disappointed, but on the level of a touching story of two attractive people handling grief and guilt with astronomy much in the background, it is somewhat successful.


Consensus: Although Mike Cahill’s Another Earth has fine performances and a believable human story, the sci-fi elements don’t quite add up, with the camera work and editing feeling needlessly uneven.  ** (Out of 4)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    November 29, 2011 12:55 pm

    I saw ‘Another Earth’ in the theater and I recommend it (amazing scene with a guy playing a saw – how many movies have that?! You can listen to the ethereal music from this scene on the composer’s website


    • November 29, 2011 1:07 pm

      Agreed – the use of music in Another Earth is nicely done and that was one of the quiet scenes that actually did work.

      Thanks for reading and sharing the link!

      -John C.


  2. pgtipsonfilms permalink
    December 14, 2011 12:48 pm

    Interesting review. Have a read at my review,

    What do you think?


    • December 15, 2011 12:22 am

      Good review – have to agree with what you said about Another Earth being “unconventional.”

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts!

      -John C.


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