Another Earth contains both an outward looking expansionist grand vision and an inward focused deep introspection. First, the external and gargantuan stimulus is that another planet appears in the sky. At first, it’s just a speck like any other planet or distant star. Then it keeps coming closer is soon apparently our same planet dubbed Earth II. The internal and emotionally scarred center of the film, however, is Rhoda (Brit Marling) who is just released from prison four years later after being convicted of vehicular manslaughter. As a 17 year old girl who just got accepted to MIT, she drove drunk, hit a car with a family in it, and killed the pregnant wife and five year old boy. The husband, William Mapother, went into a short coma.
To avoid human contact and most forms of communication, Rhoda opts for janitorial work upon release. Her family wants her to resume her life where she left off but her psyche will not allow that. So begins a deeply philosophical exploration on regret, guilt, forms of forgiveness, and compassion all while a new, mirror-imaged planet is coming closer and closer. Did Rhoda commit the same mistake on Earth II? Is that family torn apart or still together on that new planet? These and a host of other theories and possibilities are tossed around for the audience concerning not only a mirror planet, but about past events and moving forward.
In real life, Brit Marling graduated from Georgetown with and economics degree and instead of pursuing a banking career with Goldman Sachs (an offer she turned down) took off for Hollywood. She was only offered smaller roles in cheap horror flicks. So instead of demeaning herself in garbage like that, she sat down with the eventual director, Mike Cahill, and wrote her own script. Brilliant move. It was a much harder road to travel to write her own script and then get it picked up by Fox Searchlight who bought the distribution rights at Sundance, but she pulled it off. It really is a breath of fresh air to see a film like this, learn its back story, and become immersed in it as opposed to whatever the most recent superhero movie is.