The Earth, The Way I Left It shows how one child processes a profound loss in short film directed by Jeff Pinilla.
The loss at any age, but especially at a young age, can be difficult to understand or process. Every person has a different way of coping (or not coping, as the case may be) with their loss, and other people are rarely privy to their thoughts. However, in The Earth, The Way I Left It, one girl’s internal thought process is brought into reality for the viewer to see.
After Alexandria is forced to deal with the sudden loss of her brother, she comes into contact with a kid from the stars, who needs her help to get back home. While it is not made clear until the end of the movie exactly how Alexandria lost her brother, the specifics are not important, taking a back seat to the events that follow. Similarly, while it is not directly stated that the Space Cadet who finds his way to Alexandria, it is made clear through the visual parallels that the Space Cadet is there to help her process the loss of her brother.
The most immediately noticeable element of The Earth, The Way I left It is the way the viewer is made to feel everything Alexandria feels. Not only is the audience made to feel her loss, but also the way she feels about her parents talking about her just outside her earshot. Although the subtitles allow the audience to know exactly what it is they are saying, the jumbled audio allows the viewer to hear the conversation as the droning that Alexandria hears coming from downstairs. Similarly, rather than showing Alexandria sulking or some other cliched method of showing loneliness, The Earth, The Way I Left It uses flashbacks effectively, cutting between Alexandria doing activities with her brother to Alexandria doing the same activities alone, so that the viewer is made to feel the emptiness that Alexandria feels.
In a similar fashion, the lack of discernible dialogue throughout the film serves to emphasize the audience’s emotional connection with the film. Without any dialogue to tell the audience how to feel, the emotions are instead conveyed through the atmosphere the film creates, resulting in a much more organic and effective emotional connection. While many people can’t directly relate to what it’s like to lose a sibling, and even fewer can relate to what it’s like to get a visitor from space, the film nevertheless engenders an emotional connection with the audience that lasts throughout the entire film, coming to a head at the end of the film (in a way that won’t be specifically referenced here, for the sake of avoiding spoilers).
Aside from the emotions that The Earth, The Way I Left It creates, the film is also filled with beautiful cinematography. The film makes masterful use of both digital and analogue photography, taking advantage of the differences between the two types of film to bring them together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Beyond the blending of two different media of film, the shots themselves are all carefully composed so that each shot conveys exactly as much information as it needs to.
Overall, The Earth, The Way I Left It is a beautifully written, directed, and composed film. It’s manipulations of the audience’s emotions is effective and organic, and aside from the masterful mechanics of the film, the story told by The Earth, The Way I Left It is compelling and beautifully told.