Another Earth is easily my favorite new movie of this year. This may sound like big talk, but I was once a quiet, ponderous teenager who looked for her future in the stars (and sometimes, in the furthest reaches of dreamland, I still do).
As fair warning, the film starts out quite slow, and takes time to build momentum. But once it does, that momentum keeps growing and growing, hurling us closer to the narrative, just as Earth 2 hurtles closer to Earth 1.
In tone, it reminds me most of Winter's Bone. Our protagonist faces incredible tragedy in her life, but the movie never asks us once to feel sorry for her. We understand that she is deservedly robbed her of her youth for accidentally robbing Professor John of his wife and child.
When Rhoda (Brit Marling) emerges from prison, she seems dead, both inside and out. As consequence of her crime, she has to walk everywhere, giving her ample time to consider the mysterious orb in the sky. The cinematographer throws himself into these sequences; they're more beautiful than BBC nature documentaries.
As far as she's concerned, there's only one route to salvation: a voyage to Earth 2. We know very little about Earth 2 at the start of the movie, and I'm not going to spoil any of the film (that said, you can probably guess the nature of Earth 2).
But it's the structure of the movie that really sold it to me.
Revelations about Earth 2 are dealt piecemeal, through radio snippets and moments spent with television news broadcasts. It's a brilliant way to weave in expository elements, as we get to watch various characters react to the news.
Rhoda keeps approaching John, the man whose life she ruined, each time attempting an apology, but failing miserably. If she's dead inside, he's a black hole, sucking in the energy from everyone and everything around him until all lay silent in his house of death.
But each new piece of information causes subtle shifts in the relationship between Rhoda and John. Just as the position of the moon affects the tides, the position of Earth 2 affects their very beings.
Rhoda has many qualities that could lead us to hate her, but we don't. We want her to find her second chance, to make things right in whatever small ways possible. And she does, in a very unexpected way.
The instant the credits rolled, I demanded a sequel. I can only hope that Marling and co-writer Mike Cahill pen a follow-up that focuses more directly on the interchange between the denizens of Earth-1 and Earth-2.
Science fiction fans may complain about the lack of grounding in the science of Earth 2 (in fairness, Cahill has said that he filmed numerous scenes with physicists like Brian Greene, but cut them out in the end). I wasn't bothered though. There are strong thematic similarities with Revolutionary Road and Rabbit Hole, and as in those films, the hope of salvation functions just as well as a metaphor in the movie as a dream of reality.
Brit Marling is a revelation as Rhoda. As with Jennifer Lawrence last year, I fully expect Marling to rocket to superstardom in one year's time.
William Mapother is fantastic as grief-stricken John, but there was a small part of me that couldn't separate him from creepy Ethan in Lost. This may have helped his character though, as John's a little bit menacing himself. Perhaps people on the edge of despair always are.
Another Earth may seem a little bit under the radar for an "Oscarbait" piece, but it's been sweeping the festival awards. I doubt it will get too many nominations, but it deserves one for cinematography, soundtrack and direction.