The Space Between Us desperately seeks to please audiences by sticking their heads in the clouds
Peter Chelsom’s The Space Between Us will either have audiences choking on an abundance of cheesy cliches, or experiencing feelings of wanderlust.
Following an astronaut’s unintentional pregnancy during a mission to Mars that leaves her dead, Gardner Ellis (Asa Butterfield) is born in outer space. For the first sixteen years of his life, he lives on Mars alongside scientists, kept a secret from the rest of the world in order to salvage the company’s reputation for allowing such a tragedy to happen. Feeling isolated and alone, he uses an advanced technological computer to befriend Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a foster teen who mirrors his feelings of isolation in a world where she doesn’t trust anyone. A quick trip to Earth soon turns into a long adventure as Gardner sets off to find his father alongside Tulsa before his heart implodes from Earth’s atmospheric pressure, which differs from what his body had grown accustomed to while living on Mars.
Although the film progresses smoothly and at a steady pace, it is easy to get caught up in the glamour of young love before realizing that many of the characters lack foundation. Consequently, it is difficult to sympathize with the characters’ backstories when viewers don’t have time to grasp and understand what they are. For starters, we aren’t given the connection as to how Gardner finds Tulsa of all people to communicate with on Earth. Even then we don’t know much about her life as a foster child, why she is teased by her peers or why she still visits her father, who builds airplanes in his backyard. The last point is especially empty as it’s significance only fits to benefit one specific scene later in the film. A similar pattern follows with Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino’s roles as Nathaniel Shepherd and Kendra, respectively.
Butterfield makes up for the lack of depth of his character by delivering a beautiful portrayal of childlike innocence in his role as Gardner. Although he slips into this persona abruptly, he manages to consistently deliver his lines with a careful amount of diction and exploratory excitement throughout the remainder of the film, making it easier for audiences to fall in love with him and his adorable disposition. As for co-star Britt Robertson, there is nothing new brought to her role as the street-smart tough girl whom she’s repeatedly portrayed in the past. At this point, it feels as though she continues to play the same character but in different settings, which is a major setback in a film in which her backstory remains up in the air, nearing the ground but not landing just yet.
Throughout the film, it seems as though the producers were a bit confused as they tried to decide the setting of the film, specifically when the film takes place. With the movie taking place nearly 20 years into the future, I would have expected there to be a little more technological advancement or a slight change in environment rather than limiting it to transparent cellphones.
The movie also made a point to include many random scenes that lacked placement and left me asking myself, “What?” Sometimes it looked like a desperate attempt to move the plot along; other times, it was completely unrelated. Although scenes were given the magic touch that emphasized the unrealistic yet beautiful romance in old Hollywood movies, it was obvious that there were scenes that were cut out where they shouldn’t have been. Not only does it take away from the plot, but it takes away from the significance of the storyline and gives rise to many unanswered questions, all while wondering why you should care.
Initially the film is enjoyable, filled with fun and excitement with a soundtrack that makes you want to road trip all over the country with a friend and fall in love. However, after the dust settles and the honeymoon phase ends, you begin to see the desperate attempts the producers made in order to make everyone happy in the end, even though that is not necessarily what everyone wanted or needed for this to be a stronger film.
Despite its flaws, The Space Between Us left me leaving the theater with a warm feeling. You don’t have to like sci-fi to enjoy this movie, but you do have to be able to stomach the romantic cheesiness of teenagers falling in love, regardless of the romantic element being dispensable. Thankfully, some humor kicks in by the middle of the film, but don’t expect to be falling out of your seat.
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