The elements of science fiction in ANOTHER EARTH accentuate the most important human elements of the story: forgiveness, alienation, victimization, and how to carry a burden. Protagonist Rhoda Williams is just about to start her life as a student at MIT, when she crashes into a car, killing a man’s wife, son, and unborn child. Instead of heading off to college, she serves a four year prison sentence.
Upon release, Rhoda commits herself fully to living the way that she thinks she deserves to: without a shred of earthly validation. From the moment she steps beyond the prison gates, her brilliant mind is focused on creating a reason not to die. She moves into her parent’s attic to live in isolation from the self she was when she murdered a family and takes a job that will not give her any chance to be seen or grow.
Lanky, serious, beautiful, and quiet, actress and co-writer Brit Marling defies every single assumption an audience could make of her by giving them a character who dares to experience a potentially deadly form of redemption. She scrubs, freezes, and not once does she complain about the physical world or her body. She walks along on some invisible edge, surviving on purposeful remorse, without excuses.
Rhoda walks right into the life of another survivor- the man whose family she killed, intending to apologize. Instead, she loses her nerve and plants seeds that can’t grow, for the hope of changing the past with some beautiful denial. As his cleaning lady, she sets about changing his surroundings in an apparent effort to warm his heart. He appreciates this and sees her as a possible object of love. Clearly, there is nothing from her past she can give him in the beginning- no brilliance, no science, no degree- and while their relationship becomes all about the present, nearly stemming into the future, what she did remains unforgivable. She came for forgiveness, and she leaves with understanding. She walks on the edge, trips, and falls, and she is lucky enough to rise up again after, alone.
As writer/director/cinematographer/editor/producer (mentioned above as the man of many hats), Mike Cahill put it “I think she’s not afraid of dying. I think she sees it as one of her possible escapes. The monster she is fighting throughout this film is this guilt…her character didn’t have one shred of self-pity. Self pity is very alienating, in general…there’s plenty of opportunities for her to point fingers…but she carries it like a warrior, which I think is beautiful.” I agree and I would like to see more beautiful warriors like her on screen.