Another Earth (2011) and Rabbit Hole (2010)

by George Watches Things

Today, we start a new chapter. New design, new content, new focus. I’ll explain it all later, but I thought I’d start this new era by reviewing one of my favorite films of all time.

Sometimes, I’ll be watching a film when I realize that I’ve been drawing comparisons to other films the entire time. This shouldn’t come as a shock to me; I know who I am and what my world/mind is made of. But, somehow, it always does. I love it when this happens, because I can spend days on comparisons like this. While I was watching Another Earth, I drew two comparisons, and I will explore one of them here.

The first was to Gattaca. Like Another Earth, it is a sci-fi film that has an extremely complex male-female relationship at its core. In Another Earth, a promising young astronomer-to-be named Rhoda (played brilliantly by Britta’s quasi-lesbian lover from Community, Brit Marling) drinks and drives after a party. She must deal with the consequences of this action (unlike Chelsea) when she kills the wife and kid of a composer named John (portrayed well by William Mapother). Gattaca’s plot is not even similar to Another Earth‘s until the end, despite various agreements in mood. I don’t want to spoil either film, but instead point out what an interesting pairing they make for because of this. In fact, if I had to see Another Earth back-to-back with another film, I would choose Gattaca immediately after…

Rabbit Hole. Rabbit Hole was a film I respected and really liked after my first viewing. Back in November, I had a chance to see it again, and this time, things were different. So many of the small, beautiful details had completely slipped my mind. After taking notes, I think I could go on at length about these details, and someday I hope I get the opportunity to. But a major part of Rabbit Hole was the rabbit hole theory; the idea that somewhere out there, in another dimension perhaps, you are happy… even if you aren’t happy right now. Those of you who have seen Another Earth are, for sure, nodding your heads, as you can see how it relates.

Nicole Kidman plays Becca, a woman whose son was run over by a car more than half a year before the film starts. She takes comfort in the idea of an alternate version of her, but that thought was not her own. It was brought to her attention by Jason (the young, talented Miles Teller), the boy whose car slain the child who wandered into the street. Going back the Another Earth, Rhoda and John both look for peace on Earth II, a near-replica of Earth I which finds itself within shuttle distance of their home planet.

Automobiles play subtle roles in both films, since both of their plots stem from car accidents. It’s incredible, now that I think about it, how similar the films are in terms of plot. Maybe I’m a sucker for this type of movie, but I doubt that’s the only reason I fell for both of these pictures.

Another Earth is, at its most basic level, a collection of images that Rhoda seals in her memory forever. Given complexity, it is a living and breathing museum through the life of a person who has no life. Rhoda herself is curating, and once the seal on this memory container is broken, there’s no going back. I wasn’t attracted to this story at first, but Brit Marling really drew me in with her stellar, nuanced performance as this troubled young adult. Additionally, the relationship between Rhoda and John is one of the most natural onscreen relationships in recent memory. Not a single moment in forced.

The voiceovers are the most annoying part of the film, but I only counted four of them, so they don’t breathe down your neck too often. In the early bits, you may feel it gets too art-house and too indie, but it redeems/earns these poetic pauses.

The performances of Kidman, Teller, Aaron Eckhart (Becca’s husband), and Dianne Weist (Becca’s mother) all bring emotional realism to Rabbit Hole, as well. Kidman’s performance, in particular, conveys a mixture of guilt, anger, and superiority that she doesn’t have to tell you about in order for you to understand. Each of her interactions with the other characters brings a new meaning to what we already know about her. It’s a brilliantly structured film, but how much would that matter if the players weren’t so perfectly in-tune with each other.

I’m scared I’ll write another seven paragraphs about Rabbit Hole here! Again, I appreciated the little things. I particularly enjoyed how all the characters called their support group simply “group,” allowing it to rule over them. The different, cold-light-of-day look of the kitchen at the end was a simple but effective touch. But the one thing, above all else, that makes Rabbit Hole work so well is its willingness to throw blame out the window. This isn’t a story about right and wrong. It’s the story of a family and what has to be done to maneuver life.

Additional notes, but no funny quotes:

  • Another Earth: ***½
  • The narration at the beginning of Another Earth reminded me of Beginners.
  • 1 hour and 10 minutes in: John’s smile is heartbreaking.
  • When Another Earth flashes back to the accident at that crucial time, it is simply brilliant.
  • I tried to explain the film to a friend, and I used the term “our Earth” while talking about Earth I, but do we really know that’s our Earth?
  • Another Earth has currently bumped Certified Copy from my list of best films of the year.
  • Rabbit Hole: ****
  • This Debbie character means a lot in the film, but we never see her. It was a nice touch.
  • This is the movie A Little Help wishes it were.
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