The audio portion of our review contains spoiler-ish discussion.
Sandell: You know Josh, when I leave a theatre I usually still carry the feeling or tone I got from whatever movie I saw.
Sandell: When I left this movie I felt sort of...numb. Honestly, whenever I think about the movie I stil get a numb feeling. The last time I remember feeling this way was when I saw the "The Fountain".
Joshua: I interestingly enough I had a quiet urge to go watch "The Fountain" after leaving the theatre, so there was some similarity in reaction for me as well, even though neither "Another Earth" nor "The Fountain" left me feeling numb. I know the feeling you're describing - Grave of Fireflies, Children of Men, and a few other nihilistically-twinged tragedies have left me feeling numb at their conclusion - but didn't get that from "Another Earth".
Sandell: And this movie did remind of "The Fountain" in a lot of ways. They seem to be part of the movie genre that is hard to place. I don't want to call this movie pure drama (even though you rightfully could) Nor do I want to put an "indie" label on it.
Joshua: It's not science fiction, importantly, which it gave an appearance of during the original trailers. The concept of the mirror earth - the mirror of our own planet that has appeared in the world, is only a background element in the film.
Joshua: At the beginning of the film meet a bright and forward-looking college-entrant, and by 10 minutes in we are watching that girl as 21 year old who has just been released from 4 years of prison for vehicular manslaughter for drunk driving (she was gazing at the second earth instead of the road), a mistake that cost the lives of a young boy and a mother. We spend the next majority of the film's time watching the lead character dealing with the core aspects of her new unimprisoned life. Where she was once outgoing, social, and shining in her aspirations, her experience has turned her into something quite different. Taking a job as a school custodian in order to give herself a task and provide order and avoid having to interact with people (a far cry from the gifted astrophysics program she was accepted to MIT for). On the 4th anniversary of the event she accidentally comes across the path of the husband/father of the two she killed in the car accident and begins to look into his life. She discovers where he lives and in the process of an attempted apology, she backs down from the confrontation with the now home-ridden former professor, explaining herself as from a cleaning company (seeing the disaster his home has become). Despite her intent being merely to make an excuse and to get away [maybe? her intent could be read either way], he relents and lets her in, and she gets a look into the man whose life she destroyed. As she continues to come back to continue to work on cleaning his home, their relationship slowly becomes closer and the two begin upon a path back towards their former selves.
Joshua: Behind this is set the backdrop of the discovery and continuing interactions with another planet that seems to mirror our own - first in geography and then eventually we discover in inhabitants as well. Questions arise, directly through commentators and people discuss the effects - what is the meaning of another world that mirrors our own? Are there people there who are like us, and how similar are we? Have our other selves made the same mistakes that we have? How have the things we've done made us who we are, and what would we say if we could confront our duplicate, and therefore confront ourselves?
Joshua: I liked this film a lot. And it's important that I say that I like the film before making this next comment because it is going to sound terrible: I felt the film was at its best when the lead character was by herself or when no one was talking, and my favorite moment was the very ending.
Sandell: Really, your favorite parts of the film were ones that had Brit Marling's character by herself? I can't really think of a favorite part myself. I do think the most powerful moments had Marling and William Mapother's character. I felt uncomfortable watching them because I knew at some point she would tell him what happened with his family.
Joshua: Yeah. I felt consistently uncomfortable while watching this film, and I think that more than anything serves to show its successfulness.
Joshua: All this self redemption I was describing sounds dangerously like the makings of a "feel-good" movie. This is not a "feel good" movie, but neither is it emotionally oppressive. The reason "Another Earth" succeeds is because the film doesn't make active attempts to "redeem" the characters, nor does it strive to create a specific emotional reaction in the viewer - instead it allows the honesty of the characters to breathe, in all their complicated difficulty. Additionally to its credit, over the large majority of the film the story managed to avoid making easy choices. Rather then taking the path that leads to resolution, it makes the choices that make things more difficult for the characters. Making the choice that leads to the obvious confrontation, it makes the choice that adds an additional layer of understanding to the characters. The movie does make once specific choice that undermines its tension and unpredictability (for those of you who have seen it, the event and statements made after the scene in the auditorium), but the film recovers and returns to its path before the conclusion.
Joshua: The film ends up keeping the tension, the stress, the uncomfortability [is that not a noun? it is now.] at a high level throughout (nearly) the entire story. And although watching the film feels uncomfortable, it is our reaction to the tension we are held in rather than a wounding reaction from tragedies we witness the characters going through.
Sandell: I agree. "Stressful" sums up this movie quite well. It's the good kind of stress though. Just don't go see this movie and expect the typical experience you get from most movies.
Sandell: I think that's the message I would give to anyone about Another Earth.
Joshua: The message I would give to someone about this film is... I don't know. It's a good movie and that makes it more difficult for me to sum up. It's one of those movies that proves that film is a valid, important medium for storytelling, damn it. It's one of those movies that proves that films can be good, and that films can succeed in what they set out to accomplish without involving either explosions, social upheaval, or boredom. It's one of those movies that I probably won't add to my movie collection but which I enjoyed seeing once I that I won't mind seeing again some time.
Joshua: And it's one of those movies that makes me want to watch more movies.
Sandell: Well, I'm definitely going to stop looking at stars while I drive.
Sandell: I wont stop drinking and driving though.