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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Another Earth

November 29th, 2011

Another Earth - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray Combo Pack

Another Earth had a lot of pre-release buzz going for it, not to mention some film festival wins. However, its reviews were only good, but not great. It opened strong, but only made it past $1 million during its limited release. Earlier today it earned two Independent Spirit Award nominations. I'm getting a lot of mixed signals from this film. Is it the award winning film? Or is it the film that struggled in limited release?

The Movie

We meet Rhoda Williams at a party. She's seventeen and just found out she had been accepted to M.I.T., but she does a little too much celebrating and while driving home she hears an announcement on the radio that a new planet has been discovered within the solar system, and there's a chance it could support life. While looking up to see this new planet, she's distracted from the road and ends up causing an accident. As a result, John Burroughs is put into a coma and his son and pregnant wife are killed.

Four years later, Rhoda is getting out of prison. The planet, which was just a blue dot when she got into prison is now much closer and scientists have discovered it is an exact duplicate of our Earth, dubbed Earth 2. The continents and oceans are the same. There even appears to be cities in the same places. There's huge excitement over this discovery. There's even someone whose set up a contest to become one of the first people to go to Earth 2. Rhoda is more interested in recovering from the trauma of the accident than with the new planet. In order to accomplish this, she tracks down John Burroughs to apologize. At first she can't even approach him and just seeing him leads to a suicide attempt. She reconsiders entering that contest, as it could be her best way to get away.

During her next attempt to contact John, she makes it further and knocks on his door to talk to him. Because Rhoda was under 18 years old at the time of the accident and a minor, her identity was never released and John has no idea who she is. Unable to tell him the truth, she panics and tells him she's from a cleaning service offering a free one-day trial. At first he shoos her away, but then decides to take her up on her offer and even hires her for the next week. Next week she tries to tell him again, but for the third time can't do it. (In her defense, he didn't want to talk to her about anything and just wanted to be left alone.)

Later, Rhoda and her family are home watching TV, watching the live broadcast of the first attempt to contact Earth 2. Dr. Joan Tallis of SETI is given the honor of being the first person to contact the other Earth, and when they final reach someone, it's...

That's a pretty major spoiler, but not fatally so. If you know what it is going into the movie, it's not going to kill the film, because the film is more about the human interaction between Rhoda and John. The science fiction is more of a backdrop. It does add an important philosophical angle to the film, but the real strength is the character drama. We get to watch two people get to know each other and become close, while only one of them knows how connected they really are. The writing is great and the two actors really bring life to these characters. (In more ways than one for Brit Marling, as she co-wrote the film.) Director and fellow co-writer Mike Cahill gives the film a strong sense of style, although there were a few too many shots that I thought were a little heavy handed in the style department. Plus, one wouldn't be wrong to say the film is slow. Even fans will admit the film has a deliberate pace.

The Extras

First of all, the film is only being released as a Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack and the DVD portion has no extras. There are a lot of extras on the Blu-ray, but they are mostly quite small. The longest of these are the deleted scenes, which run nine minutes long. There are three Fox Movie Channel Presents with the director / co-writer, Mike Cahill; lead actress / co-writer, Brit Marling; and the lead actor, William Mapother. Combined these three featurettes are only 13 minutes long. There are a couple short featurettes on the making of the movie and the scientific / philosophical angle in the movie, but each one is less than three minutes long. Finally, there is a music video. The video is, well, it's a mess. Some scenes are very soft, there are times when there's way too much grain, colors are muted, etc. However, some of this is due to the movie's low budget origins and part of is was aesthetic choices. What I'm saying is you can't blame the transfer for the visual quality and this is likely as good as it will get. The audio is clear, but uncomplicated. Since this is a dialogue driven film, this is the most important thing. It only costs $20, which is a good deal for a limited release, especially one that comes with a DVD and a Digital Copy.

The Verdict

If you can deal with the deliberate pace, Another Earth will reward you with a very compelling story that touches on a number of concepts from those everyone deals with (losing someone special) to those that are strictly in the realm of science fiction (alternate Earths). The Blu-ray Combo Pack has a lot of extras, but individually they are quite small and don't add up to much. However, it is still worth the price.

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Filed under: Video Review, Another Earth