For the last decade, scientists have been discussing the discovery of a potentially habitable exoplanet named Gliese 581g, revealing its remarkable similarities to our own late last year. Unfortunately, the Earth-like planet orbiting a small red star is far-too distant for us to ever make contact in our lifetime. It's approximately 20 light years away. Nonetheless, the possibility of discovering other life within the known universe raises many more questions about our existence and leans towards some mind-boggling consequences.
Coming at the heels of this major scientific announcement, 'Another Earth' imagines a comparable scenario. Only, the script by Mike Cahill, also serving as director, and Brit Marling, who also stars as Rhoda, features a second planet that is identical to ours and even orbits the same sun. It's so close, in fact, that one can see it in the sky above, much like the moon but massively bigger. Lacking any technical explanation for how the laws of gravity suddenly seem suspended in this situation, it remains one of the visually striking feats of this low-budget independent film which captures the imagination.
The news of this discovery broadcasting over the radio also steals the attention of Rhoda (Marling), an aspiring astronomer accepted to MIT whose life is instantly altered after a drunk-driving accident. Years later while the world sits on the cusp of communicating with the other planet, a painfully remorseful Rhoda agonizes over making contact with the world she ruined. Marling's performance during these early segments and opposite William Mapother's widower, John, is extraordinary and captivating, wonderfully conveying a young woman anguishing at a time when she would otherwise be thrilled at the sight of an Earth Two.
As the narrative unfolds, we learn this mysterious planet is actually a twin Earth with beings identical to us in every way, including childhood memories and personalities — real-life doppelgangers which made the same choices and mistakes as we did. The plot is ripe with possibilities that could touch on some very provocative and meaningful questions. But as it turns out, the science-fiction involved in this story is merely the backdrop for a deeply moving and riveting tale of two lonely people lacking meaning in their own personal world. As fascinating the sci-fi elements may be, Cahill does a marvelous job in elevating this drama, keeping it more significant and enthralling in light of everything else.
The story doesn't really explore deeper into the implications of a mirror Earth, at least not in any way disconnected from the main plot. The film is intently focused on the relationship of these two lost souls finding a reason to continue existing. Questions and thought experiments are closely related to how the scientific discovery might affect the lives of Rhoda and John, or how easily lives are shattered by a single mistake. There is a hope that the night of the accident might have turned out differently on the other planet — that Rhoda's twin actually succeeded in accomplishing her life-long dreams.
It's that hopeful leap into the unknown yet possible which serves as our emotional center, a venture Rhoda reminds us has historically been done by the socially marginalized. The success of 'Another Earth,' beside Marling's superb acting and Cahill's talented eye, is this touching story of a once-hopeful young woman defeated and bankrupted by the outcomes of her choices. Even while the world celebrates a momentous scientific discovery and ponders its future implications, life on this Earth goes on, and people must continue facing the consequences of the past.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment releases the small indie film 'Another Earth' to Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack with a DVD-9 and a separate Digital Copy. It's the only available option for those wanting to buy the movie. The Region A locked, BD50 disc sits comfortably on a plastic swinging arm that holds two discs at once inside the regular blue keepcase and a glossy, cardboard slipcover. At startup, we have the usual series of skippable trailers before moving on to the main menu screen with full-motion clips and music.
Shot on high-definition cameras, 'Another Earth' debuts on Blu-ray with mixed results, looking rather bland and sterile for most of the movie's runtime. The digital-to-digital, AVC-encoded transfer shows good, distinct details in the fine objects and excellent, life-like textures in close-ups. Unfortunately, the 1.85:1 picture frame is also terribly inconsistent, with several, poorly-resolved sequences. This could be easily attributed to the filming and cinematography rather than the encode because the presentation comes with the telltale drawbacks of using HD cameras.
Most apparent is the fluctuating contrast levels. Many interiors with dim lighting tend to look uninteresting and flat while a few exteriors shots are quite crisp and sharp. Then there are scenes that run far too hot with noticeable blooming in the highlights, causing a great deal of ringing as if the image were artificially sharpened. Blacks are often true and deep, but there are times when they dull with dreary, murky shadows which ruin delineation. The palette generally falls on the warmer hues and pushing red slightly more than other primaries. Still, colors appear fairly accurate with healthy skin tones.
In the end, the high-def video is tolerable, keeping to an expected indie vibe that makes watching this original tale that more interesting.
The sci-fi drama also arrives with a strong and satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The dialogue-driven film is expectedly front-heavy with excellent, well-prioritized vocals and nicely-balanced channel separation. The soundstage carries an appreciable airy openness with an attractive acoustical presence. Combined with a sharply-detailed dynamic range, imaging expands considerably as the original musical score by Fall On Your Sword spreads throughout the front and lightly bleeds into the rears. Low-frequency effects are mild and used only on occasion, but they decently provide a bit of depth to the high-rez track. Back speakers are generally silent, yet the lossless mix does a fine job at engaging listeners and keeping them invested to the end.
Aside from the trailers, the Blu-ray disc carries all the special features in this combo pack, which includes a DVD disc and a Digital Copy.
'Another Earth' is an emotionally-driven motion picture with an intriguing and even provocative sci-fi backdrop fueling an absorbing and often riveting drama at the center. Making his feature-length directorial debut, Mike Cahill remains intently focused on the relationship of two disenfranchised and alienated individuals, while the world surges with energy as humans make first contact with a duplicate mirror Earth. With a breakout performance of co-writer Brit Marling, the low-budget independent film is a surprisingly engaging piece on redemption and devastating loss. The Blu-ray arrives with an average picture quality that's true to its digital source and a good audio mix which adds a bit more value to the overall presentation. Supplements are greatly lacking and all-too brief, but the three-disc package is the only option available, making it worth the price and recommended based on the film alone.