'Another Earth' review: A shattering exploration of what we can stand and what we're ready to discover

**** (out of four)

One minute Rhoda (Brit Marling) is a tipsy 17-year-old with a ticket to MIT. The next she’s behind the wheel, distracted by the sight of a new planet that seems to be a replica of Earth, and crashes into a family of three--killing mother and son. After getting out of prison four years later, Rhoda attempts to apologize to the father (William Mapother of “Lost”) but instead poses as a cleaning person and aims to improve his life on a weekly basis. Couldn't hurt, could it?
 
The buzz: The notion of an unusual relationship between the perpetrator and victim of an accidental tragedy has certainly been done before, most recently in last year’s “Rabbit Hole.” Yet this Sundance prize-winning sci-fi drama, co-written by Marling and director Mike Cahill, unfolds only in ways that are both emotionally authentic and surprising.
 
The verdict: No American film has wrecked me as much this year. “Another Earth” aches profoundly for an alternate reality in which things turned out better while also fearing something different and scary. We are arrogant, the movie recognizes, but also fallible. Marling and Mapother are heartbreaking; their performances reflect the stunned fog of moving on from a moment that changes everything, and not for the better. Credibility is strained once or twice, but “Another Earth” is a movie that could change the way you look at everyone—making you wonder, what has almost destroyed you? What have you survived?
 
Did you know? A fellow custodian at the high school where Rhoda works as a janitor is played by Wes Anderson regular Kumar Pallana, arguably best known as maintenance man Mr. LittleJeans in “Rushmore.” I’d be lying if I said that didn’t pull me out of “Another Earth” for a second, but you can’t fault a casting director for hiring a good actor.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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