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This is the time of year for huge movies with big premises tied to outer space--your sagas about an alien taking over a small Ohio town, giant alien robots taking over Chicago, or some guy named Thor crash-landing in the desert. Another Earth is, in some ways, that kind of movie, a drama about what happens when a "mirror" Earth is discovered lurking behind the sun, looking exactly like our planet and containing people who are, in some strange cosmic way, twins of every single person on the planet.

But Another Earth isn't some giant studio production or even a sci-fi film, exactly. Directed by Mike Cahill, who also co-wrote the script with Brit Marling, who also stars in the film as budding astrophysicist Rhoda, Another Earth was one of the big hits of this year's Sundance Film Festival, and comes to theaters this week as an ideal indie alternative to movies twice the size with half the imagination. Despite the sci-fi trappings the real story of Another Earth is what happens when Rhoda, tipsy after a college graduation party, runs a stoplight and kills a woman and child. Surviving that wreck is a man (William Mapother), who spends the next four years in a deep depression while Rhoda serves her jail time. When she's freed she comes back into the man's life under false pretenses, and the two proceed to help each other heal while wondering about the fate of their mirror selves on the other planet that's appeared in the sky.

Like I said, it's a big idea, but one that Cahill guides with gorgeous visuals and a keen sense of how to pitch his drama. I talked to him on video a few weeks ago about his path from Georgetown economics major to filmmaker, the experience of seeing his film get sold to Fox Searchlight at Sundance, and some of the science that went into making up this story. Check out the interview below, and see Another Earth in limited release this Friday.