A blue and green planet, identical to Earth in every perceptible way, suddenly appears in the sky on the same day that a young woman named Rhoda (Brit Marling) crashes her car and kills the mother and child of Yale composer. You can’t say that Mike Cahill’s Another Earth doesn’t go for broke: The visual of a mirror globe hanging in the sky, twice the size of the moon, is unsettling and oddly powerful, but the film hangs uneasily between two worlds too: Though Marling, who cowrote the film with Cahill, delivers a marvelously still and composed performance that should launch her career, the film is unsatisfying both as a philosophical mind-blower and as a soap-operatic tragedy.
The film could be an episode of The Twilight Zone, or the opening for a sci-fi epic, but the action here is all earthbound: Fresh out of prison and paralyzed with regret, Rhoda begins to stalk Alex (William Mapother, who Lost fans will remember as Ethan), the grieving father of the mother and child she accidentally killed. Somehow, she poses as his housekeeper, and keeps returning to his home so often that she becomes his confidant and eventually his lover. Marling plays Rhoda with a transfixing stillness and serene confidence, but the role is a crock. Despite solid performances, the two-character drama is far less believable than the idea of a second planet suddenly popping into the sky.
Meanwhile, the mystery planet is used almost solely as a heavy handed, almost stoner-friendly, device: If you knew there was an alternate dimension within reach, how would it change your idea of yourself? Would it make it easier to forgive yourself because everything might be okay on that other planet? Or harder? The film is stuffed full with ambitious ideas that never take flight. It's far too contrived to work as a tragedy, and too thin as a piece of intellectual inquest. In the end, the film, beautifully shot and well performed, is trying so hard to be profound in so many ways to ever be much more than frustrating. Maybe in another dimension, Cahill nailed it, but not here.