John Burroughs (William Mapother) was a famous composer, father, and loving husband to a pregnant wife. This changed when waiting for a traffic light to change, a drunk driver (Brit Marling as Rhoda Williams) barreled into his car. The damage proved to be so severe that Mrs. Burroughs, her baby and their child all died on impact. John Burroughs lost consciousness and lay in a coma for an extended period of time. When he awoke, he had nothing left but the haunting memory of the crash and to live with the misery of being a widower and a father to two dead children.
The driver of the car had been a teenage girl acting recklessly. Rhoda lost control of the vehicle and swerved into the Burroughs family causing the worst possible scenario to come true. She spent four years under incarceration for manslaughter. When Rhonda re-emerges she feels overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, remorse and sadness. Consequently, chooses to become reclusive and to work as a janitor at her old high school. Her family supports and shelters her, but it is clear that Rhonda is a broken woman inside. Her future is uncertain and her life remains ruined and mired in her past transgression.
Somehow, Rhonda builds up the nerve over time to visit Mr. Burroughs. Her intention is to apologize and to beg for his forgiveness. When she shows up at his doorstep on a freezing cold day, he does not recognize her because his advisors never showed him photographs of the drunk driver. John unsuspectingly invites Rhonda into his unkempt home. Rather than flat out admit who she is, Rhonda concocts a story about offering a free housekeeping service in order to breach the gates. What she finds is a man driven to the bottle, disheveled as can be, and torn to pieces emotionally. Once a famous composer, John has become a hermit and has largely given up on his music. Rhonda continues to visit him week after week under the auspice of being his housekeeper. Perhaps cathartically, or maybe sinisterly, the two fall in love and rejuvenate one another's spirits. The question remains, how will John respond when Rhonda finally tells him the truth about the accident that transformed their lives?
This film is not uni-dimensional by any stretch of the imagination. There is a fascinating backdrop. Earth 2 is visible during the day and at night. It has entered the Milky Way galaxy and is within reach of Earth, the original. Rhonda becomes fascinated by the prospect of escaping her life. This leads her to apply for an essay contest where the prize is a free voyage onboard an outgoing spacecraft headed for Earth 2. All the while, it is revealed that on Earth 2 there are doppelgangers of every person on Earth. This means that there could be another Rhonda, or possibly even another Burroughs family still living. Complications abound.
Another Earth is an emotionally powerful film intended for serious audiences. It could easily work as a Broadway play and be lucrative, but as a drawn out movie it feels eerily real. The wintery Connecticut landscape lends to the brutal truth about the characters' lives. Director Mike Cahill does a nice job of maintaining consistency throughout the picture. William Mapother is a fine dramatic actor. Brit Marling is a very intelligent and poised newcomer with a bright future ahead of her. Watch this film only if you are in the proper mindset, otherwise it will depress you and quickly.
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