The film cost just $200,000 and while being remarkably well made and cast for that amount does look a little rough and cheap. This is not to the film’s detriment though as I don’t think that a shiny or glossy looking film would have worked quite so well. The science behind the story is fairly credible and as someone who is fascinated by astronomy, it had me going along with it. Although problems such as tides and light were ignored by the film makers, I didn’t let them distract me. There will be obvious comparisons to Lars von Trier’s Melancholia but they are mostly misplaced. The film lacks the sense of impending doom and instead views the second Earth as a chance for redemption and opportunity.
The two central characters relationship changes in a not so subtle way throughout the film. There are a total of three adjustments to their relationship and they drive the story in a compelling way. The second alteration though was fairly unwelcome. The relationship that had the most heart for me was that of Rhonda and Purdeep (the marvellous Kumar Pallana Every Wes Anderson Film who is still going strong aged 93). These two characters have only each other and though little is ever said between them, it is obvious that they find solace in each other. The relationship between Rhonda and John is very different although both are people whose lives have fallen apart and find comfort in each others company.
A couple of scenes really stand out for me and these are the ‘first contact’ scene which is absolutely thrilling and the saw playing scene which was incredibly deep and touching. The saw sounded like an alien communication and was extraordinary. The film uses music to create fantastic atmospheric tension throughout, interspersing classical piano with unusual electronic computerized noises that reminded me of the noises you’d hear in a Planetarium. The conjunction works very well.
Brit Marling, who also co wrote the film with debut Director Mike Cahill gives a wonderfully sombre and understated performance, rarely coming out of her shell but showing enough of her true self to gain empathy from the audience, despite her crime. William Mapother is also very well cast (and took a fee of just $100 a day) and delivers a complex but also subdued performance. Cahill’s direction is very good but occasionally I felt that he focussed to long on people staring at the second Earth. Also, it seemed the planet was visible no matter which way you looked.
Overall this is an interesting study of science and of us. The acting is superb, the CGI excellent and the ending is left to the interpretation of the audience. I wouldn’t recommend it as a Friday night ‘popcorn movie’ but for anyone interested in the psychology of human interaction and guilt or the writing of Isaac Asimov then this is a film for you.