13 February, 2012

Another Earth - Film Review

You've all seen the trailers for this 'Another Earth', I presume. They've been quite aggressively stapled to every recent feature film over about the past year, and the film has finally been released in the UK. Unfortunately, the trailer (counted as a short film) is about seventeen times better than the full-length feature, which trundles along, without saying anything profound, whilst believing sincerely that it is.

Newcomer Marling, who also co-wrote the screenplay, is Rhoda. She hands in a strong performance, but irritatingly her vowel sounds have a tendency to go wildly off-course. And whilst I would not go as far as to agree with The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw that Marling 'to be frank, is not a natural screen performer', she does have just two facial expressions throughout the movie - shock and fear - which never progress to more. Mapother (known mainly for his role as creepy Ethan in 'Lost' and for being Tom Cruise's distant, less successful but probably more normal cousin) stars as widower John Burroughs. Managing to portray both 'family man' and 'the outsider' well, Mapother has a standoffishness which he puts into play here, making Burroughs both sympathetic and slightly sinister.

Without spoiling too much, the two become more intimate than you'd initially think (a point in the film I audibly sighed at). Sadly the chemistry between the two is minimal, and they struggle to toe the line between lovers and a sinister age-differing twosome. Are the two supposed to be a vomit-worthy atonement of Rhoda's earlier transgression or a fate-driven power couple?

What was fascinating in the movie was how the background noise was minimal and at times was a kind imitation of white noise playing. This emphasised the feelings of isolation and bleakness in the film, and gave the imposing 'Earth 2' visual motif a kind of malignant, foreboding feeling. The only time music was played was at the sparing number of moments when Rhoda managed to connect emotionally with others, which is clearly a struggle for her after the accident. There is an interesting parallel to be made between the paucity of human speech between long stretches of white noise and the huge distances between planets and stars in the universe. However, the 'Earth 2' idea is so poorly executed and poorly demonstrated that it is difficult to believe that any of these filmic connections to planetary workings were intentional.

Something I always struggle with in supernatural or sci-fi books, films and programmes is that the parameters of the universe are often poorly thought-through and set up. This makes it difficult to emotionally invest in a world where very little is clear about how the two identical planets relate and interact. The film ends without explaining how the other planet could help John Burroughs or how it relates to Rhoda's sin and ultimate acceptance of what she did. Similarly, it fails to use the 'Earth 2' visual or world, seeing as the 'visiting Earth 2' does not even take place in the time constraint of the movie. There was no point during the movie in which it was even inferred that the military, the governments and the other planet were all working in the way an audience would expect during first contact with another world.

Ultimately, 'Another Earth' felt like a skin-deep and happy-go-lucky portrayal of the storyline, rather than a fully-thought out representation of an interesting and compelling idea. Despite the fact that so much of the film's movement and its visuals centre on journeys - railways, footprints - it's a shame my journey watching the film was slow, painful and ultimately disappointing.

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