Another Earth Movie Explanation and Discussion

Another Earth is a nigh on perfect movie. It deals with angst and the desperate need we have for forgiveness from ourselves and from others.
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Brit Marling is an angel – prove me wrong. I mean, I can count the ways. Can you count the ways she’s not? The Sound of My Voice. The OA Season 1. The East. The OA Season 2. I Origins. I’ve systematically walked through almost all of Brit Marling’s movies and there’s literally nothing bad to be said about any of them. But there was one really, really-really, (hyphenated reallies are a lot), big omission to her oeuvre, and that is her brilliant movie, Another Earth. And so, I’d like to take this moment out to publicly apologize to Brit Marling. (Internet birds…could you flitter this in her direction for me? Great, thank you.) <Cough> Brit, I am so very sorry for taking this long to get around to talking about your movie Another Earth. You see, — nope — there is literally no valid excuse. I have none. Do please forgive this massive oversight. And thank you so very much for making such gorgeously interesting films. We are all better for it. (And oh, if you are still reading, I’d give an appendage…? No, two. To interview you if you ever get the desire to be interviewed by a super backwater movie blog. <Cough> OK, where were we? Oh yes, Another Earth Movie Explanation and Discussion. Let’s away shall we?

Brit is from the school of thought that Hollywood writes so few strong female lead movies that she needs to create the roles for herself to play. Literally. And if you don’t find that brilliant – I’m sorry, but the door is right over that way —-> feel free to help yourself to it. The site and this writer will not miss you one bit. Because dang, in this world that is driven by cash turnouts and box office returns, that is some mad cajones right there. Did Netflix pull the plug on The OA one season too early? Yes. But did  Zal Batmanglij, and Brit Marling go after a really ambitious brass ring with the show? Yes. And do we need the sequel to I Origins to come out…which would be called I? YES! (I was going to be the first movie, but to make sense of that movie they made I Origins first.) The prodigious amount of brilliant content she has succeeded in unfurling is just amazing. Sometimes I wave Shane Carruth’s flag around here too much. Yes, I think Primer is perfect. And yes, Upstream Color is even better than perfect. But Brit Marling’s movies, while unpolished, and unapologetically imperfect, exult in their ideas and insights. And that kind of movie is so very rare.

So here – have a trailer – and then, please go throw $20 more than is necessary at a streaming service in order to watch this film. I mean, if the internet birds are not going to allow me to tell Brit Marling herself directly, then we have to tell her somehow, right? But I would NOT watch this trailer if you haven’t seen it yet. Just head out Hulu, Amazon, or Vudu and watch it post haste.

Brit. I’m telling you…you really do not want to chat with me about your movies. It would get really really messy, really really fast. Professionalism? None. Decorum? Hahahah. Just do not contact me to chat, whatever you do. (She probably won’t see through that at all, will she?)

Another Earth Walkthrough

The story, on its face, is ultra simple. The night another earth is discovered, a young woman (Rhoda, played by Marling), who has just been accepted to MIT, celebrates with her friends. Driving home, drunk, she has car accident that kills a woman, her son, and her unborn child, leaving the husband (John, played by William Mapother, who you know from Lost (He played Ethan – yes, you are welcome, that was bothering me too.)) to grieve. She goes to prison for four years, but though she was a bright academic star, she isn’t able to figure out a path back to normalcy. She had a bright future but she isn’t able to put all the lost pieces of that puzzle back together again. So two lives (really five) are shattered that night through one person’s stupid mistake.

Another Earth though? It’s a tangential discovery, and yet it is central to everything about this movie. Yes, it’s impossible. Yes, it’s really dumb from a scientific standpoint. But thankfully, that isn’t what this movie is actually about. It’s not a discussion about gravity, planet attractions, and physics. It’s about mistakes, sins of our past, and searching for forgiveness. And although you might have assumed there would be rockets, space travel, and international space stations at Earth2, you can be forgiven those assumptions about this brilliantly written low budget thriller. Why? Because Earth2 plays such a poignant part throughout the entirety of the whole movie. It’s always there, hanging in the sky. And even when we aren’t focusing on it, it’s still there like big brother, waiting for its moment to drop in and blender everything that has happened before it.

Another Earth Movie Explanation and Discussion

The movie mostly deals with Rhoda, after she is released from prison she just wants to work with her hands. And soon after, she finds herself doing janitorial work at a local high school. She has lived her life fascinated by astronomy, and even though she is done aspiring to MIT level greatness, she can’t stop thinking about the implications of this other earth.

Meanwhile, John, who spent an extended period of time in a coma after the accident, eventually wakes up. But his life as a professor of music at Yale is over, and his hoped for life with a loving family and a positive direction is all done. Rhoda, crushed by the pain she inflicted on him, can’t walk away from the accident – especially after she witnesses him leaving a toy at the crash site – and she decides to find him and watch him through his window one day. Then one day, intending to apologize to him for the horror she caused him, she heads to his house. But when he opens the door she can’t go through with it and instead acts like she is with a cleaning service offering a free trial.

Eventually, her fascination with the alternative Earth causes her to enter a contest looking for a civilian to head to the planet. And, in the meantime, she begins cleaning John’s apartment every Friday. And instead of cashing the checks, she tears them up. Obviously John has zero idea as to who Rhoda really is. But after a bumpy start, begins to hit it off as Rhoda becomes a regular in his apartment. He takes her home one day to save her a ride in the bus. And eventually he asks her to go to the Yale conservatory with him to see him play a saw. (Yes, that is not a mistake…the guy literally plays a saw with a bow…it’s pretty crazy.) And that night, the two have sex back at his place. Soon after Rhoda finds out that she’s won the competition, and while be offered a Willie Wonka-esque ticket to outer space…where she will most likely meet another version of herself. The radio shows are bubbling over with ideas about a Broken Mirror Theory. The idea is that the moment that we discovered the other earth, our two paths diverged. And while they would be relatively similar, this moment caused each planet to start moving in different directions allowing each inhabitant of their respective planets to begin having free will. Which, if you were thinking about it, you’d realize that since Rhoda crashed after the discovery, this means that on Earth2, there is most likely a version of herself that didn’t go to jail, didn’t cause an accident, and would be in a totally different head space.

But when John finds out that Rhoda won the contest to go, he asks her not to go. And she says that she will let him decide that if he still wants her to stay after she tells him a story. This is when Rhoda finally tells him that she is the one that caused the accident killing his wife and child. He gets extraordinarily upset (which is totally fair, seeing as though this isn’t one travesty now, but two. She has stolen not only his wife and children, but also a potential budding relationship and love. Right? Stop chucking stuff at me… I’m right on this one!) Well, just before she is going to head to the desert to train for the trip, she goes back one last time to talk to John. She breaks into his house and he gets very upset and begins choking her (which, she allows him to do…right? Because, after all, she feels horribly guilty about what she has done). After he stops, she tells him about the broken mirror theory, and that his family might be there, on Earth2, alive and okay. And with that in mind, she leaves the ticket for him to use.

Now stop a moment and think about that. Rhoda has lived her life after the accident regretting that moment. She has paid her dues from a legal standpoint, but it has done nothing to assuage the guilt she suffers from. And in an act of sadness, and regret, she begins cleaning John’s home in a hope of bringing any semblance of positivity to his life that she can, forgoing any hope of selfish benefit at all. And when she wins the competition, again, she selflessly gives the ticket to John in a final attempt at restitution. Feeling good about the decision she has made for John, she moves on with her life, glad that John is reuniting with his family on Earth2.

After four months, we watch as Rhoda returns home. And as she does, she discovers another version of herself, obviously from Earth2, standing in her driveway. The End.

Another Earth Movie Explanation and Discussion

Thoughts on the Movie Another Earth

Literally am divided on what to talk about first. There are two distinctly different trains of thought here that both are important to be discussed. The first one is the discussion about the movie mechanics, and the implications for the ending. And the second one is the moral questions and emotive impact for what happens at the end. Right? There are rules about how this film is working, and order, and structure to what can be expected about the ending. And we also have two broken people dealing with the consequences of these decisions. Right? OK, so, after saying that out loud, I think it makes the most sense to talk about the movie mechanics first.

Another Earth Movie Mechanics: So, we have been given a few things about the movie that have ordered the comings and goings of these mirror copies of earth. The biggest one being that the earths were most likely mirrors of one another. 100%, complete mirrors…exactly the same, until the two planets notice each other.

To extrapolate that a bit – Rhoda1 was a promising MIT student. But the day she is accepted to MIT, several things happen at once. She goes to a party, gets drunk, and kills three people. That’s thing number one. But earlier in the day, prior to her learning she’s been accepted to MIT, is that the world’s scientists learn of Earth2. And it is at this moment that the two worlds’ mirroring breaks. They begin diverging. So, maybe, on Earth2 things go wildly differently that day. Like, for example, maybe Rhoda gets accepted, and instead of partying with her friends, maybe she celebrates with her family…no alcohol is involved, and John’s wife and child are not killed in an accident. Which means, 4 years or 5 years later…when Rhoda1 meets Rhoda2 there are a MILLION differences between the two of them. The biggest of which is that Rhoda would probably be an MIT grad, not an ex-convict like she is on Earth1. Right?

But that is the easy mechanic to understand. Where the screenplay has flaws is right here. John1, a widower, receives a ticket from Rhoda1 to go to Earth2… right? Supposedly though, on Earth2, there is a John-wife2, and a John-kid2, correct? But why isn’t anyone saying the obvious? There is also a John2 there on Earth2… no? So he will head to Earth2, be met like a conquering hero, and his first thought will be, where is my wife, and my son? And John2 will say… uh, dude… they aren’t your family. They are MY family. No? And although it is a super clever, and very selfless gift of Rhoda1 to give, it’s his worst nightmare, but he just wasn’t thinking it through at all.

Another Earth Emotional Shrapnel

As the movie is ending, we see Rhoda1 and Rhoda2 standing together in her driveway. (Just forget the fact that Rhoda2 had to land, and escape the paparazzi and make her way to her Earth1 companion.) And the interesting idea here is that Rhoda (in the plural) is able to see herself for the first time in her life. That has been the idea of the entire movie. What would we see, and what would we do when we could actually see ourselves for what we are? Truly see ourselves.

(Holmes, dude, you make crap up all the time. Where is this see yourself silliness coming from?) OK, well, early on in the movie, in Rhoda’s bedroom, the camera stops over a book, and stares at it for 5 seconds or more. (Trick #1 in discerning what a movie is saying is research every book that crosses the screen, every movie poster, every CD… ) Well, that book happens happens to be from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. And these books deal with the idea specifically about free will and determinism. There is this idea in that series that deals with a new study of humans called Psychohistory wherein the practitioner can predict what a large group of humans will do. Psychohistory will not allow you to predict what a single human can do, but it can tell you what an entire civilization on a planet say will do. Or across a universe of many people, it will tell you that a certain people are about to end. Right? So, while an individual has free will, their larger fate is determined. And in these books they focus on this specific issue of knowing oneself and understanding our place in this vast continuum. If that makes sense.

Now, take Purdeep. He was the blind janitor that worked with Rhoda at the school. What was he all about? We learn that he poured bleach in his eyes to blind himself. But his advice to Rhoda was to pour out her heart…to empty herself so she can be where she is. So she can be present. Which just means to empty herself of concerns. Clear her mind of worry. And Purdeep’s destruction of his eyes signifies that he is our cleric in the story. Or our holy man. Movies treat blind people with a respect that focuses on the spiritual because it is thought that blind people can see what really matters. Well, Purdeep goes a step deeper in that he not only burnt out his eyes, but he poured bleach in his ears as well. And when Rhoda visits him in the hospital he says to her, “You wonder why I did it… No, you don’t, you know.” And she writes on his palm the letters for the word, FORGIVE.

And with these two details we have everything we need to really understand this movie.

So what does Rhoda2 say to Rhoda1 after she finds out exactly how Rhoda1‘s life has gone the past 5 years? The first thing she said to herself, without a doubt, was “You really need to forgive yourself. Yes, it was horrifyingly tragic. But forgive yourself.” Rhoda1 is tormented by her past. So much so that she makes horrible decision after horrible decision as a result. She will do anything to try and make it up to John. Anything. Cleaning his house was only the beginning of the things she would have done to be forgiven. So the question you need to ask yourself today is…can you actually see yourself? It’s harder than you realize. Sure, we can see Rhoda clearly. But it’s harder to see ourselves. And secondly, once we see ourselves, can we forgive ourselves for the really dumb things we’ve done in our past? We are desperate for forgiveness, but that starts with forgiving ourselves. But that ultimately comes from finding forgiveness from God too. And there you have it, Another Earth Movie Explanation and Discussion.

Edited by: CY