Silence of ‘Another Earth’ Captivates

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, August 14, 2011

The movie title of “Another Earth” means, quite literally, that in this film there is another Earth dangling above us, quite visibly. But the film is not really sci-fi. It’s a drama. A tad existential, but linear and very easy to follow.

“Another Earth” is a young film — its writers and director hovering around 30 years old. This generation of filmmakers tells stories very succinctly. We are out of the gates in the least amount of time possible and have a ton of information in the first few minutes. Without the exposition being crammed, we know everything we need to know and are propelled quickly into the action and heart of the story.

A young woman with her whole life ahead of her is driving and staring up at “Earth 2” when she plows into a minivan, killing the driver’s little son and pregnant wife. The driver survives. The film then takes on a silent, but not somber tone. After serving time in prison, the young woman adopts a penitential lifestyle that eventually leads her to the man whose family she wiped out.

Much of the film has an air of quietude. There is very little talking except for radio, TV and other devices keeping us abreast of the news after the appearance of “Earth 2.” However, there is plenty of story development, all told visually — as a film should be.

In fact, the audio of the film becomes so nonexistent at certain points that you can hear people munching their popcorn. The young adults in my theater squirmed a little at first, cleared throats, but then bought fully into the experience of silence. Nobody stirred during the quietest on-screen moments.

After a while, “Another Earth” becomes mesmerizing. Even when the young woman begins to talk again, the economical style tale-telling, consistent pace and precise camera angles have locked us in.

The story is strong and suspenseful. There is a noticeable lack of music-videolike sequences or even contemporary rock or hip-hop. The color palette is blue and brown, the visual style is simple but not minimalistic. The acting is exposed and very good. There are really only two main characters, but it doesn’t feel sparse.

The main question posed seems to be (since everyone has a double on “Earth 2”): “What would you do if you could meet yourself? What would you say? What would you see?” I’m not sure this is a worthy, serious question to form a whole movie around, but I can’t stop thinking about it.