Another Earth: Ending Explained

This post includes spoilers for Another Earth (2011).

The 2011 indie movie Another Earth, starring Brit Marling and William Mapother, is a story about guilt, regret and choice. 17-year-old Rhoda is a smart student interested in astronomy, who gets accepted into MIT. On the night that an identical Earth appears in the sky, Rhoda gets distracted while driving and hits the car of John, killing his pregnant wife and child. Four years later, she has served time in prison while he awakens from a coma. From then on, the story is about Rhoda trying to make amends, to atone for her crime. She befriends John, tries to do everything she can to make it up to him, while simultaneously lying to him about who she really is. At the same time, the duplicate Earth is shown as a mere background plot device. We see people listening in on the radio and news reports, speculating about why this twin planet exists and what will happen with it.

Over the course of the movie, we learn that "Earth-Two" has the exact same people living the same lives on it. Rhoda writes an essay to a competition that will allow the winner to travel to Earth-Two. She is selected and manages to gain entry on the space flight. Still feeling regret for killing John's family, she comes clean with him. He gets upset and throws her out of his house. She stays away from him until she hears a theory that both planets existed in synchronicity until they became aware of each other, which leads her to believe that John's family are still alive on Earth-Two.

When this movie began with the car accident, Rhoda's life entered a new route. She was on track to become an MIT student and find success, but instead she serves time in prison for four years. If we are to believe that Earth-Two is like a split reality, then we must assume that Rhoda of the other Earth may not have caused the crash and everything is still intact. It's a situation similar to movies like Sliding Doors and It's a Wonderful Life, where the protagonist's life is completely different in two separate realities.

During the movie, Rhoda is constantly wondering what would have happened had she not made that mistake. This internal speculation is actually a reality on the other planet. Rhoda-Two is a successful MIT graduate, and that's exactly why she wants to go there. She wants to go to a world where she didn't make that mistake, and to see what her life would be like in that state. We all have those moments where we want to see what we'd be like had we made a different decision. The accident, the regret, the guilt; it all eats her up inside. It slowly tortures her, breaking her down day-by-day.

Eventually, she finds a way to resolve this guilt. She gives her ticket to John. In her mind, by reuniting him with his wife and child on Earth-Two, she can find redemption and peace. She'll be able to let go of the past. Just like the story she tells of the cosmonaut, she accepts that ticking sound in her head until she is no longer aware of it. In the last scene of the movie, it is several months later and Earth-Two has disappeared from the skies, a symbol of how her guilt has been resolved and her heart healed. She can finally begin to enjoy her life again, and the two realities merge. Rhoda finally meets her original self once again.

In the end, it doesn't matter if John found his family. It's not his story; this is about Rhoda's search for atonement. I thought that Another Earth was a fantastic movie for this message alone. It's not a sci-fi movie about other planets, it's a drama about redemption and guilt. Let me know what interpretation you had of the film in the comments section.

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