We science-fiction fans have put up with shiny robots and slobbering aliens for a hyperage now---how about a movie about serious ideas, to keep company with Solaris and The Man Who Fell to Earth? As if hearing our plea, the Sundance Film Festival has long bestowed a special award, the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, to the entry that most speaks to ethical issues of science and technology. (Be still, our geeking hearts.) This January's winner, Mike Cahill's suggestive and extraordinarily sad feature debut, can proudly stand beside 2004's brainy Primer---another Sloan recipient---as an exemplar of thoughtful indie genrework.
It can't be too far in the future: Rhoda (Marling, also the cowriter), an MIT student, has her life derailed when she plows into the car of a young family, leaving only the driver alive but in a coma. Emerging from jail four years later on shaky ground, she tracks down this survivor, John (Lost's Mapother), and insinuates herself secretly into his life as a cleaning woman. So it's a grief drama, yes, and then a nerve-racking romance, but where's the sci-fi? Up in the sky: A second orb has quietly appeared, just like ours. (Never mind the how.) It may be our own world in an accusatory mirror or a doorway to another outcome, a path out of the pain. Another Earth is a movie you take home and write your own ending to.
Watch the trailer