In one of those cinematic chicken-or-the-egg conundrums, viewers are left to wonder what came first to the folks who wrote Another Earth: a storyline that led to a Twilight Zone-ish ending, or a Twilight Zone-ish ending that led to the story preceding it? After all, the film's final shot is such a fanciful gotcha moment that it's easy to believe writer-director Mike Cahill and writer-star Brit Marling conceived it before anything else and then figured it was brilliant enough to overshadow any shortcomings. Hardly.
Another Earth begins with the discovery of another planet in our solar system that's just like ours. Here on our Earth, however, promising MIT student Rhoda Williams (Marling) has just been released from a jail stint for having killed innocent people - a small boy and his pregnant mother - in a drunk-driving incident. Rhoda goes to the home of the survivor, composer John Burroughs (William Mapother), to apologize, but she loses her nerve and, without revealing her identity, instead becomes his housecleaner and, eventually, lover.
The movie's small-scale story about redemption is meant to dovetail with its larger one involving the newly discovered planet, but it's an uncomfortable fit, with the more fascinating aspects of the tale taking a back seat to the rote patterns of its rocky romance. As for that ending, it raises some obvious questions that are presumably answered on that other Earth, but watching it on this Earth doesn't make it any more satisfying.