Sunday, 11 December 2011
'Another Earth' review:
Midway through ‘Another Earth’, feature debut of director Mike Cahill, the camera pulls back to reveal a huge piece of graffiti daubed on the road of a perpetually overcast middle-American city. It reads “spare us” – with the people of this strained, determinedly “indie” drama fearing revelations of the unknown as an exact double of our planet comes into close orbit. I know the feeling: watching this dimly lit affair I was tempted to scribble the same thing on the cinema walls.
The film stars co-writer Brit Marling as a young woman who gets admitted to MIT only to spend four years in jail instead, having killed several members of a family after careening into their car whilst driving under the influence. Just prior to this life changing event, Marling spies a brand new star in the sky. It's, of course, our planet's aforementioned doppelgänger, and it's soon discovered that it's home to exact doubles of every person on our planet. After leaving prison she comes to see the planet as offering potential redemption, entering a competition to win a seat on the first voyage to "Earth 2". She hopes to find a new life in the unknown dominated by one thought: are the people she killed still alive up there?
This is a good idea in theory - potentially a cerebral blending of science fiction and lo-fi American indie drama. Yet, beyond some budget defying special effects, the film lacks ambition and is content to wallow in a rather more conventional, Earth-bound story about guilt and remorse. Even so, these are interesting themes. Yet here they are explored almost without feeling and in an oppressively banal setting. It's a cold, sterile experience set in a gloomy world and filled with people who don't read as convincingly human. Instead they are merely players in what feels like a trumped-up student film, high on its own imagined profundity.
Indeed the single worst thing about 'Another Earth' is a narration from an unseen character who asks all the most searching questions about the ramifications of this new planet - just in case we're too simple to ask them ourselves. It's a clumsy device which plays like a bad Werner Herzog impression rather than an exploration of grand meta-physical themes. Much like the film itself.
'Another Earth' is rated '12A' by the BBFC and is on UK release now.