But, those things alone don't make a watchable film or a film where you won't hear audience members groaning and guffawing at various points (especially the predictable, eye-roller of an ending).
Why do indie films go wrong?
It is often the same reason better-funded films stink up the screen; someone comes up with an idea but never bother to craft a story beyond that idea. With Blockbusters sometimes they decide to make up for lack of content with explosions. Indies often do it with pretension.
Another Earth has an interesting premise. Another world appears in the sky, apparently inhabitable. As this news is breaking a young woman, Rhoda, played by Brit Marling (who co-wrote this mess with director Mike Cahill), does something terrible throwing her life away and ruining another life in the process. But that is it. There is nothing much else to it. The idea of parallel worlds is given short shrift. The idea of redemption is made to seem as mundane as buying a Big Mac, fries and a Coke.
As the movie moves forward this other world figuratively and literally (it gets bigger in the sky) moves nearer. And the main character, Rhoda enters a contest to fly to this other world. I won't give away more details but, be aware, there are not many more to give away.
The problem here isn't the sci-fi. It is everything else. The most believable thing about the film is that this other, identical earth appears in the sky. Most of the dialog is forced and a great deal of the story is told via voice over "news coverage." The people just don't do or say what you would expect people to do or say in these situations. The writers, at least, make an effort to explain the most ludicrous part of the plot but it still doesn't fly. How does someone not know who it was that killed his family? A lame explanation is given but it doesn't withstand much scrutiny.
The writing is stilted, the acting so robotic that it is difficult to tell if they are good actors or not (William Mapother was fine on Lost!). Every word out of Rhoda's brother's mouth sounds like it was written for a reality show (until the last words out of his mouth which ring more true).
This is a film that it is difficult to even come up with something to say about it; it is just so mediocre. It is a waste of effort and a waste of time to watch. You will feel nothing watching it and you won't think about it ten seconds after you leave the theater except to say "Damn, maybe I should have gone to see Captain America."
I think the reason I wrote about this at all, because I take no joy in writing negatively about modest movies, is that I take issue with those who laud every movie that isn't about a super hero. Or any movie that can be labeled as "independent." I have seen a lot of such films in the past five years and their rate of failure is as high as Hollywood. They are not all good, many are mediocre and many will make you want to poke out your eyes (this one isn't quite that bad). The real question is why does this film get the distribution other, much better, films never see? I have seen great films, GREAT ones, that only made it into the dingiest big city art house theaters. How does Another Earth get the exposure they deserve?