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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton


 Another Earth


Director Mike Cahill (2011)

In humanity’s eternal war against entropy it’s cleaners, underpaid and ignored, who are the frontline troops, tidying up our mess, putting things straight and making it so we can live another day.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Rhoda (Brit Marling), home after a stretch of porridge she did for accidentally killing a bloke’s family in her car while distracted by a new blue star, abandons a promising career as an astrophysicist to mop down a school.

It’s as a cleaner, too, that she appears to John Burroughs (William Mapother) after she turns up to say sorry to her surviving victim and bottles it.

In the four years since the tragedy Burroughs has let himself and the house go. There’s plenty of cleaning to do, and Rhoda’s hired. Soon she comes to see this work as her apology, her redemption.

Meanwhile, that blue star has got closer and it looms in the sky like a clouded mirror, another Earth with another one of everybody on it. Yet it’s not quite identical as the history of the two planets diverged at the point they became visible.

This opens the door for Rhoda, with the help of a space travel entrepreneur who’s launched a competition to visit the twin globe, to erase her dangerous driving incident and absolve her guilt, as well as Burroughs’ pain. In other words to clean up after herself.

It’s a fantasy come true, not just for Rhoda but for all of us, I imagine. A magical chance to tidy up the mess in our lives. But there’s more to this film than sci-fi trickery. Or should that be less.

When you describe Another Earth it comes out sounding like a crude conceit, but descriptions don’t quite meet up with the experience of watching it.

The other half of the school’s cleaning team is a blind janitor, a mysterious old Indian chap called Purdeep (Kumar Pallana). At first he seems incidental, and for obvious reasons not very good at cleaning. But we later learn he’s blinded himself because he’s unable to face some guilty episode in his past.

Purdeep leaves you wondering, makes you worry, like that grain of dirt that escapes the sweeper’s broom, that bit of entropy that always gets away.

December 19, 2011

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