Another Earth

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Another Earth
A blonde young woman from the waist up, standing in front of a sea and Earth.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Cahill
Written by
Produced by
  • Hunter Gray
  • Mike Cahill
  • Brit Marling
  • Nicholas Shumaker
CinematographyMike Cahill
Edited byMike Cahill
Music byFall On Your Sword
Artists Public Domain
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • January 24, 2011 (2011-01-24) (Sundance)
  • July 22, 2011 (2011-07-22) (United States)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.9 million[2]

Another Earth is a 2011 American science fiction drama film directed by Mike Cahill and starring Brit Marling, William Mapother, and Robin Lord Taylor. It premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in January, and was given a limited theatrical release on July 22, 2011, by Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film earned two nominations at the 38th Saturn Awards for Marling's performance and for Cahill and Marling's writing. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes calls it slow paced but soulful.


Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling), a brilliant 17-year-old girl who has spent her young life fascinated by astronomy, is delighted to learn that she has been accepted into MIT. She celebrates, drinking with friends, and in a reckless moment, drives home intoxicated. Listening to a story on the radio about a recently discovered Earth-like planet, she gazes out her car window at the stars and inadvertently hits a stopped car at an intersection, putting John Burroughs (William Mapother) in a coma and killing his pregnant wife and young son. After serving her four-year prison sentence, Rhoda becomes a janitor at her former high school and struggles with guilt and regret.

Hearing more news stories about the mirror Earth, Rhoda enters an essay contest sponsored by a millionaire entrepreneur who is offering a civilian space flight to the mirror Earth.

One day Rhoda sees John laying a toy at the accident site. She visits his house, intending to apologize. He answers the door and she loses her nerve. Instead, she pretends to be a maid offering a free day of cleaning as a marketing tool for a cleaning service. John, who has dropped out of his Yale music faculty position, has been letting his home and himself go, and accepts Rhoda's offer. He has no idea who she is, and when she finishes asks her to come back the next week. In time, a caring relationship develops and they have sex.

Rhoda wins the essay contest and is chosen to be one of the first to travel to the other Earth. John asks her not to go, believing they might have a future together. She finally decides to tell him the truth about who she is. He is upset and throws her out of the house.

Rhoda hears an astrophysicist talking on television, describing a "broken mirror" hypothesis which states that upon the sighting of the twin-Earth the synchronicity of events happening in both the Earths was broken. Rhoda rushes back to John's house, but he refuses to let her in. She breaks into his house, and he begins to strangle her. He stops, and when she recovers she tells him about the theory and that there might be a possibility for his family to still be alive on the other Earth. She leaves him the ticket. In time, she learns that John accepted the gift and becomes one of the first civilian space travelers to the other Earth.

Four months later, on a foggy day, Rhoda approaches her house, discovering her other self from Earth 2 standing in front of her.



The idea behind Another Earth first developed out of director Mike Cahill and actress Brit Marling speculating as to what it would be like were one to encounter one's own self. In order to explore the possibility on a large scale, they devised the concept of a duplicate Earth. The visual representation of the duplicate planet was deliberately made to evoke the Moon, as Cahill was deeply inspired by the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing.[5] This movie shares some of its plot details with the 1969 British sci-fi movie Doppelganger.

Another Earth was filmed in and around New Haven, Connecticut, Mike Cahill's hometown – with some scenes taking place along the West Haven shoreline and at West Haven High School and Union Station – so that he could avail himself of the services of local friends and family and thus reduce expenses. His childhood home was used as Rhoda's home and his bedroom as Rhoda's room. The scene of the car collision was made possible through the help of a local police officer with whom Cahill was acquainted, who cordoned off part of a highway late one night. The scene in which Rhoda leaves the prison facility was filmed by having Marling walk into an actual prison posing as a yoga instructor and then exiting.[6]

According to Brit Marling, she approached William Mapother for the role of John after "being haunted" by his performance in In the Bedroom (2001). Mapother consented to work on Another Earth for $100 a day.[7] When asked why he agreed to join the cast, considering the "notoriously hit or miss" nature of independent films, Mapother replied that he was drawn by the film's subject and by the names involved in the project. At Mapother's insistence, he and the production team worked extensively on the scenes of John and Rhoda in order to develop John's character in the film.[8]

The film ignores the physical consequences of having a similar-sized planet and moon appear nearby (e.g. effect on tides, gravity and atmosphere) other than depicting night time as brighter due to the reflection of the Sun's light off the other planet. The DVD / Blu-ray deleted scenes feature reveals that the film makers did intend to illustrate some of the consequences by filming a scene in which Rhoda encounters flowers floating in mid-air, but the scene was cut from the final film.


The musical score was composed by Fall on Your Sword, with the exception of the song played in the musical saw scene, composed by Scott Munson and performed by Natalia Paruz.[9] Mike Cahill came upon Paruz, known also as the "Saw Lady", while riding the subway in New York. Mesmerized by her playing, he obtained her contact information and arranged for her to coach William Mapother on how to hold and act as if playing the saw for the scene in the film.[5][10]


Promotional image

Another Earth had its world premiere at the 27th Sundance Film Festival in January 2011. It was released in dramatic competition. Variety reported: "[It] has been deemed one of the more highly praised pics of the fest as it received a standing ovation after the screening and strong word of mouth from buyers and festgoers." The distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures won distribution rights to the film in a deal worth $1.5 million to $2 million, beating out other distributors including Focus Features and the Weinstein Company.[11]

Fox Searchlight is the distributor of Another Earth in the United States, Canada, and other English-speaking territories.[11] The film had a limited release in the United States and Canada on July 22, 2011, expanding to a wide release in ensuing months.[12]

In its first week in theaters, it grossed $112,266.[13] Eventually, the film grossed $1.9 million worldwide.[2]


Rotten Tomatoes gives Another Earth a rating of 66% based on 128 reviews and an average score of 6.29/10. The critical consensus reads: "Another Earth is often weighed down by placid pacing and ponderousness, but this soulful sci-fi nevertheless offers plenty of profound concepts to ponder."[14]

Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four. Ebert commented that, "Another Earth is as thought-provoking, in a less profound way, as Tarkovsky's Solaris, another film about a sort of parallel Earth".[15]


Another Earth won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, for "focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character."[16] It went on to earn the Audience Award in the category of Narrative Feature at the 2011 Maui Film Festival.[17][18]

Another Earth was named one of the top 10 independent films of the year at the 2011 National Board of Review Awards and was nominated for a Georgia Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture.

See also[edit]

  • Journey to the Far Side of the Sun - A 1969 science fiction film that was the first to deal with the premise of a double Earth. It was initially titled Doppelgänger.
  • The Quiet Earth - The scene in which Zac Hobson discovers a planet (similar to Saturn) rising out of the Ocean.


  1. ^ Robinson, Tasha (July 22, 2011). "Mike Cahill". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 13, 2014. It was under $100,000 for the whole thing.
  2. ^ a b "Another Earth (2011)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 10, 2022.
  3. ^ Dargis, Manohla (July 21, 2011). "Living in a Different World, Searching for a Second Chance". The New York Times. Retrieved July 21, 2011. ... the filmmakers tapped the astrophysicist Dr. Richard Berendzen ... to provide the mellifluous voice-over that wends through the movie, provocatively speculating on life beyond our planetary horizons, while Rhoda walks alone in a world in which she has become a near alien.
  4. ^ Taylor, Ella (July 21, 2011). "Another Chance At Life On 'Another Earth'". NPR. Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved July 29, 2011. Another Earth is cluttered with unnecessary debris, a philosophizing voice-over from real-life scientist Richard Berendzen and an elderly janitor (Kumar Pallana) who dispenses opaque wisdom every time he opens his mouth.
  5. ^ a b Soistmann, Billy (July 25, 2011). "Interview: Mike Cahill discusses [intertwining] science fiction and drama in Another Earth". Archived from the original on August 15, 2011. Retrieved July 31, 2011. We started with the bigger concept. We started with the idea of what it would be like to meet yourself.
  6. ^ Smith, Abbe (November 26, 2009). "Hamden filmmaker returns to his roots". Greenwich Time. New Haven. Retrieved August 8, 2011. Scenes were shot at West Haven's high school and police department, a local home, a street in West Haven and dozens of other places in the New Haven area.
  7. ^ Welch, Jack (July 12, 2011). "William Mapother". Louisville Magazine. Retrieved July 28, 2011. The indie movie, by first-time feature director Mike Cahill, was made on a shoestring budget, and Mapother says he agreed to shoot his scenes for $100 a day.
  8. ^ "Exclusive: ANOTHER EARTH's William Mapother Interview". Daemon's Movies. Daemons Media. 2011. I'm like a lot of actors. I like to work. This business is so hard that if you were only in it for money or fame you'd have to be a damn fool. So like a lot of actors I'm attracted by material and the other participants.
  9. ^ "Simotas Presents Citation Of Honor To Musical Saw Festival". The Queens Gazette. July 27, 2011. The poster from Sundance Film Festival award winning film, Another Earth, featuring saw music performed by festival organizer Natalia 'Saw Lady' Paruz and written by Scott Munson.
  10. ^ Pais, Matt (July 25, 2011). "Q&A: Chicago native 'Another Earth' star/co-writer Brit Marling". RedEye. Retrieved August 3, 2011. Mike was going through the subway in New York and this woman was playing and she trained William on how to hold the saw and how to draw those notes from it.
  11. ^ a b Stewart, Andrew; Lodderhose, Diana (January 26, 2011). "First on Variety: Searchlight nabs 'Earth'". Variety.
  12. ^ Stewart, Andrew (March 10, 2011). "Weinstein Co. dates trio of pics". Variety.
  13. ^ "Another Earth (2011)". Box Office Mojo. July 2011. Retrieved July 31, 2011. Domestic Total as of July 28, 2011: $112,266
  14. ^ "Another Earth (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 27, 2011). "Another Earth (PG-13)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  16. ^ Stewart, Andrew (January 28, 2011). "'Earth' awarded Sundance's Sloan prize". Variety.
  17. ^ "Audience Awards 2011". Maui Film Festival. June 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  18. ^ Brooks, Brian (June 22, 2011). "'Another Earth' Takes Audience Nod at Maui Film Festival". IndieWire. Archived from the original on June 26, 2011. Retrieved June 27, 2011. Mike Cahill's 'Another Earth' won the Audience Award for narrative feature, while Oren Kaplan's 'Hamill' took the nod for 'independent feature,' while 'Building Hope' won the doc category along with 'Connected' and 'Love Shines.' 18,000 people attended the event in Wailea, June 15–19.

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