Combustible Celluloid
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With: Brit Marling, William Mapother, Matthew-Lee Erlbach, DJ Flava, Meggan Lennon, AJ Diana, Jordan Baker, Flint Beverage, Robin Taylor, Rupert Reid
Written by: Brit Marling, Mike Cahill
Directed by: Mike Cahill
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing images, some sexuality, nudity and brief drug use
Running Time: 92
Date: 01/24/2011

Another Earth (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Going to Planet B

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Actress Brit Marling and director Mike Cahill teamed up to write this screenplay, cleverly weaving a science fiction element -- the concept of an alternate earth -- into the drama. That idea works beautifully, and it adds new layers of questions about who we are, our destiny, etc. This is most welcome since the main plot thrust is pretty creaky.

Rhoda (Marling) has been celebrating her acceptance into MIT, and she's driving home, drunk, when she hears on the radio the news of a new planet; it has an atmosphere and water and continents and is visible to the naked eye. While peering at the night sky, she crashes into a stopped car, killing a mother and son, and sending the father into a coma. Four years later, Rhoda gets out of jail and decides to visit the man, composer John Burroughs (William Mapother). At the last second, she loses her courage and tells a lie about working for a cleaning company. They slowly get to know one another and bring hope back into each other's lives. But what happens when the truth comes out, and what is the secret meaning of the other earth?

Like the laziest of Hollywood romantic comedies, it's based on the stretching of a lie. (Rhoda must convince John that she is just a cleaning lady and not the driver that killed his family.) Overall though, the genuinely touching side overpowers the hackneyed stuff. Aside from the lofty, thoughtful subtext surrounding the drama, Cahill and Marling zoom in for a nicely focused set of characters and performances. Marling is in nearly every shot, and she's magnetic, conveying a lifetime's worth of hurt and beauty. Likewise, Kumar Pallana -- best known for his supporting roles in Wes Anderson's films -- provides some small, lovely, thoughtful moments.

Fox has released a three-disc set with a Blu-Ray, DVD, and a digital copy. The movie has a low-budget, steely gray look, so quality is hard to judge; it's probably not the best movie to show off your system. The extras only appear on the Blu-Ray side. They include a music video by Fall on Your Sword, plus soundtrack information, deleted scenes (9 minutes), featurettes, trailers, and clips from the Fox Movie Channel.

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