On the night of the discovery of a duplicate planet, promising student Rhoda (Brit Marling) kills a pregnant mother and son while drunk behind the wheel. Only the husband, music professor John Burroughs (William Mapother), survives... but is in a coma. Can the fresh Earth offer Rhoda the chance of salvation or just pile on the misery? Newcomer Marling, who wrote the artful script with director Mike Cahill, has crafted an intriguing sci-fi mind-bender which sails just the right side of preposterous.
The chances of redemption look pretty slim for student Rhoda (Marling) after she drunkenly rams a car after a night out, killing a pregnant mother, her young son and putting the father into a coma.
Thrown into the slammer for four years, she emerges as a forlorn 21-year-old, takes a mentally void job as a school cleaner while seeking sanctuary in her de-cluttered attic bedroom.
On the night of the accident it was announced that a planet - the exact replica of Earth - had swung by from the solar system and had become a permanent fixture in the sky during Rhoda's years of incarceration.
Tentatively making inquiries, she discovers that the victim of her crash - composer John Burroughs (Mapother) - is now out of hospital and living the lonely life of a middle-aged widower in an isolated clapboard house.
She approaches - with the intention of making a guilt-purging apology - but loses her nerve and finds herself deceiving Burroughs with a tall tale that she's a contract cleaner.
Slowly, John emerges from his deep well of grief and strikes up a easy-does-it relationship with Rhoda, completely ignorant that it was her actions that destroyed his life.
At the same time - and this is straining things a bit - Rhoda discovers she's won a competition for a seat on a spacecraft voyage to the new planet, a trip that could result - is research if to be believed - in her meeting her own doppelganger.
This is a bizarre collision between low-budget sci-fi and the mumblecore aesthetic, a yearning romance that just about stays in orbit thanks to strong performances from Marling and Mapother.
Hugely ambitious, it's successful enough to be worthwhile and the emotionally-satisfying pay-off is, despite the potential to be utterly risible, rather charming.