While on a mission to prove the achievability of a colony on Mars, it is discovered that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Shortly after arrival, she dies giving birth to a son. NASA and the tech company responsible for the mission decide to hide the existence of the boy – the first human being not born on Earth – in order to protect the funding and good faith of both the mission and the company. At the age of 16, Gardner Elliot, Asa Butterfield (Ender’s Game), gets an opportunity to travel to Earth. He quickly escapes from NASA and seeks out the help of a girl named Tulsa, the only earthling he’s ever had contact with, in order to track down his father. Unfortunately, growing up on Mars has not prepared his body for life on Earth and his health starts to rapidly deteriorate. Are all the little wonders of the world, and finding his place in it, worth the risk of dying, or will the only “family” he’s ever known find him in time to same his life?
Given the synopsis of the story and that cast that was chosen, I was expecting something truly special. Something special was not what was delivered, however. I’m not exactly sure where to place the blame since all aspects of this film fall short of their potential.
With gorgeous locations and some very dramatic shot choices, The Space Between Us should have been wonderful to watch, but the acting detracts from that. Important scenes that should carry an immense weight come across as melodramatic. Camera angles and cinematic technique should add to the power of a moment. Without sufficient drama produced by the story and acting, scenes that should be emotional come across as comically out of place.
Gardner’s attempts to interact with people – having zero previous experience – come across as robotic as apposed to awkward, and a supporting cast of long-time film veterans led by the magnificent Gary Oldman (The Dark Knight Trilogy) seemed to have “phoned in” their performances. Whether it was lack of faith in the script, the cast not trying hard enough, or poor direction, the acting doesn’t hold up as genuine, and the film suffers for it.
As for the story itself, it was a great concept with a load of potential. The execution, however, felt rushed and a bit sloppy. From opening credits to Gardner’s trip to Earth, it feels like a “lightning round” of ‘here’s what happened to get us to the actual story.’ Start of mission to Mars, cut, two months later an astronaut is pregnant, cut, astronaut dies giving birth, cut, a 16 year old Gardner already feels trapped in his life on Mars and breaks into his mothers belongings discovering a photo of a man he believes to be his father, cut, Gardner is going to be making a trip to Earth.
What gets completely ignored in this barrage? All of the relationships Gardner has developed, including, the two most important, those with Kendra Wyndham, Carla Gugino (Watchmen), the astronaut that raised him, and Tulsa, Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland), the only person on Earth he’s ever had contact with and the second most important character in the film. We also never get to see the struggles he goes though growing up on Mars or the inner conflict Nathaniel Shepherd, Gary Oldman, experiences in sentencing a child to a life of such struggles. After that, the possibility for poignant moments, as Gardner experiences all the little things that make Earth so wonderful, are side notes and not given the attention they deserve. The search for his father would have been a better method of propelling Gardner through this journey of discovery as apposed to the most important aspect of the story. “What’s your favorite thing about Earth?” should have been the theme for the entire movie not just a reason for random experiences and a tag line.