And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he ‘s forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.

– Plato, “Allegory of the Cave”, Book VII of The Republic

The loneliest places on the planet are those yet undiscovered – the frozen poles of ice and snow, dense coniferous forests of the north, vast stretches of sand in the south. One can wander here for days without ever meeting another living thing, and the only trace of one’s own presence are the footprints left behind (and subsequently erased by nature’s capricious temperament). But what if there were another place, lonelier still than those on Earth? Another Earth proposes just this, another planet nearly identical to this one, with the offer of a chance to start anew, explore, and escape. However, this is no Star Wars or intergalactic adventure romp – Earth 2 is a midnight veil, metaphorically positioned over the true vastness of solitude which can be found nowhere else: the human heart.

Despite the tendency to classify Another Earth as science fiction, it is clearly anything but. It proceeds in shades of blue and quiet devastation, contemplative as a steady heartbeat and complex as celestial bodies. Emotional rumination pervades the film’s atmosphere, as one becomes enraptured with the mesmerising and glacially paced narrative which is both heartfelt and hopeful. The philosophical and emotional implications are endless, and layer upon each other, creating a profoundly moving web of intrinsically human questions about grief, redemption, and second chances.

It is a tale about being lost, both within the world and within one’s own skin. Rhoda (Brit Marling) and John (William Mapother) are deeply disconnected and fragmented pieces of people, existing in apathy and disillusion. Their eventual bond is a reparation of fractured souls which is threatened by a devastating truth, but one which ultimately sets them both free. The promise of ‘another you’ on Earth 2 is enticing and frightening, presenting life-altering implications to them both – in another life, would I be different? Could I have changed? Who would I be in another life? As Earth 2 looms over Earth in silent suggestion, the urgency of these metaphysical questions become desperate, and the final scene magnificently refuses to answer them.

Haunting in its melancholy and profound in its sensitivity, Another Earth triumphs where Melancholia tripped. The prospect of another earth is not significant for its scientific possibilities (admittedly, the scientific plausibility of this other planet is rather weak to anyone with a bare grasp of astronomy), but the metaphysical manner by which it mirrors the immanence and potential of the human heart. The notion of a second chance can be conceived both from a secularist and spiritual viewpoint, and the film does not negate either, relishing both equally. Instead, it gently raises the proposition that the physical and emotional state of loneliness is not so simple as to escape to another planet, but must begin in the soul, one heartbeat at a time.

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