Another Earth

Relative newcomer Brit Marling, who co-wrote and co-produced the picture, portrays Rhoda, an intelligent young woman with a scholarship to MIT and plans to become an astrophysicist. Those dreams disappear in an instant, however, when she causes a car accident that kills a woman and her small child.

That wreck leaves a grieving husband and father, John (William Mapother, TV’s “Lost”), who spirals into an existence of isolation and depression. Rhoda goes to prison for four years. Upon her release, she seeks out John to apologize, but loses her nerve and pretends to be from a maid service. Through a tortured contrivance, she winds up working for John, cleaning up the mess she has literally made of his life.

Looming over the story, literally and figuratively, is another planet that is evidently an alternate Earth. Rhoda, eager to escape her crushing guilt, hopes to win a space trip to what is known as Earth 2.

The movie, which opens Friday, doesn’t explain the sudden appearance of this wannabe Earth. That’s an understandable omission given the concept’s scientific absurdity, but “Another Earth” has plenty of more significant problems, from a ponderous pace to heavy-handed script.

Still, director Mike Cahill somehow stitches these failings into a haunting and provocative work that lingers on the memory.

Phil Bacharach

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