sxswf: Secret Screening Out of This World

Another Earth sneaks into the festival

sxswf: Secret Screening Out of This World

We got to the Paramount early on Monday, fueled by rumors that the secret screening was anything from Thor to The Hangover 2 (we had gotten the regular secret screening rumors mixed up with the Ain’t It Cool News secret screening rumors, apparently).

Spirits were high: What sort of cinematic awesomeness awaited us within the historic theater? Speculation was rampant, if reserved.

Finally, a volunteer overheard our speculation and filled us in: Mike Cahill's Another Earth, starring Brit Marling, who was attending SXSWf in support of her Sundance hit, Sound of My Voice (another sci-fi indie). Blackberries and iPhones were deployed in the service of information-gathering: Now that we had a name, what the hell were we in for?

One person in line behind me bailed when he saw that the film had a 5.3 out of 10 rating on My companions were like, “eh, we’re already here” (and we were mellowed by the free mimosas and bloody marys from the Groupon hangover brunch), so we stuck it out.

SXSW's Cherie Saulter introduced the film glowingly, and brought out Marling to say a few words. “This film is very much stitched together by hand,” she said, “like a quilt.” She left the stage with a curtsey and the film unspooled.

Marling’s character, Rhoda, is a promising young mind, just accepted at MIT at age 17. Then a horrific accident changes her fortune just as the news emerges that scientists have just discovered a second planet Earth. This trippy sci-fi conceit is what drives the rest of the narrative, as the characters ponder what their alternate selves may be doing on Earth 2.

Marling, due in part to her solid acting chops but also her striking beauty, is eminently watchable as she navigates her post-tragedy life, which includes cleaning the house of the grieving John (a nicely aging William Mapother). While the film has its problems – certain plot points are both predictable and telegraphed, the presence of a Magical and Wise Brown Friend, a weak ending – but the character study is worth the price of admission alone.

Another Earth was a hit at Sundance and was picked up for distribution, which means that it will likely show up local art house cinemas sometime this year.

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SXSW Film, Another Earth, Brit Marling, Sound of My Voice, William Mapother, Mike Cahill

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