This is the first drama feature from young American editor and documentary-maker Mike Cahill, and his low-budget, high-concept indie movie fuses intimate emotion and vast cosmic ideas: its intense drama about regret and redemption plays out in a sci-fi world that posits an alternate universe. The childhood dreams of Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) of studying astrophysics at MIT are shattered when she causes a car accident that destroys a family and leaves a music composer, John Burroughs (William Mapother), in a coma. After four years in prison, Rhoda takes a job as a school caretaker and tries to come to terms with her past.
A visit to Burroughs’s house, during which Rhoda intends to make a heartfelt apology, ends instead with her offering him a free trial on behalf of a fictitious cleaning company. Instead of wiping the slate clean, Rhoda ends up as the composer’s cleaner, and eventually his lover – without ever revealing who she is. As this risky relationship develops, cosmic discoveries are being made: a second Earth, a replica of our own that seems to exist in a parallel time dimension, appears in the sky. Rhoda enters an essay competition to win a flight to Earth 2, pondering the philosophical question: if she can’t live with herself here, might she be able to live with another version of herself there?
Cahill’s visually inconsistent first feature tries to beam epic sci-fi concepts into a micro-human drama, refracting its thought-provoking ideas through the prism of the central emotional relationship. Sadly, it often feels over-worked and overwrought, an impression not helped by Fall On Your Sword’s irritating score and Ryan M Price’s intrusive sound design. But it’s nothing if not ambitious.