The Space Between Us full movie review - "The Space Between Us" is creative, entertaining and touching, but noticeably flawed.
The 2017 adventure-drama-romance "The Space Between Us" (PG-13, 2:00) is the tale of two teens? played by Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson, who shine as two of the most promising young adult actors of the 2010s.
At just eight years old, Butterfield anchored the underseen Holocaust drama "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". At 10, he filmed the title role in Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" which became a Best Picture Oscar nominee and earned Butterfield several young actor accolades, including a Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer. In the ensuing years, he starred in high-profile film adaptations of the novels "Ender's Game" and "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children". For her part, Robertson has received similar awards recognition, but mostly for very different kinds of roles. In her teens and very early 20s, she appeared in the films "Keeping Up with the Steins", the Steve Carell comedy "Dan in Real Life", "Scream 4" and "The First Time", followed by a few short-lived TV series including "Life Unexpected" and "Under the Dome". Her film career really started to take off with roles in "White Rabbit", the adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks' novel "The Longest Ride" and the under-appreciated "Tomorrowland". Pretty impressive resumes for this stage in their careers! But before their careers reach the proverbial stratosphere, Movie Fans get to see the two rising stars in an on-screen stratosphere, part of a romance that's "Out of This World", as the film was originally titled.
"The Space Between Us" follows the life of Gardner Elliot (Butterfield), the first person born on Mars, who wants nothing more than to come to earth. Astronaut Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery), unaware that she's pregnant, is going into space, leading the first group of humans to actually live on Mars. At the end of her long trip to the Red Planet, she goes into labor. Sarah delivers a healthy baby boy, but dies immediately afterward, which creates a long list of complex problems. The private company which financed the Mars colony (known as "East Texas") is concerned about a probable public relations nightmare (and possible resulting loss in their funding) ? but is also very worried about how the young boy caught in the middle of this situation will grow and develop ? physically (in Mars' gravity) ? and emotionally (with no parents to care for and raise him). After the company's board discusses all of the implications of the situation, Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman), the company's visionary creator, and Tom Chen (BD Wong), the company's CEO, agree to lie to the world about the reason for Sarah's death, keep her infant son's very existence classified and leave the boy on Mars to grow up in "East Texas".
Gardner ends up being raised by scientists, but mostly astronaut Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino), who looks after him and is the closest thing he has to a mother, but it's not the same as actually knowing his own mother. When we see him as a 16-year-old, his intelligence is obvious, but we're also aware that he has never had a friend (or even met anyone) his own age. He builds a robot with rudimentary AI, but it's not the same as having an actual best friend. He has struck up a Skype friendship with a teenage girl who goes by the nickname of Tulsa (Robertson), but Gardner has to lie to her about who and where he really is. Tulsa is a foster kid who was abandoned by her parents when she was four and has been transitioning from bad foster home to bad foster home ever since. Tulsa is jaded and a little bitter, while Gardner is naïve and optimistic, but their shared longing to break out of their current circumstances helps them to bond, along with their shared experience of not having been raised by their birth parents.
When the doctors at East Texas come up with a medical procedure that solves some of the physical challenges Gardner would encounter in earth's gravity, those at NASA and at Shepherd's company who always wanted Gardner to have his chance to visit earth finally prevail and Gardner is prepared for his first trip from the Red Planet to the Blue Planet. When he arrives, he is immediately placed in quarantine while doctors run tests to determine whether he would be in any medical danger on earth. Anxious to experience earth for himself, and worried that the scientists are going to send him back to Mars, he escapes and makes his way to Colorado to meet Tulsa. She is very skeptical when he tells her the truth about his background, but she helps him evade Shepherd and Kendra (who are desperately searching for Gardner) and the two teens go on a road trip to fulfill Gardner's ultimate goal of finding his father.
"The Space Between Us" is creative, entertaining and touching, but noticeably flawed. Butterfield is perfectly cast and exudes an earnest sweetness that is captivating, while Robertson does her usual excellent work, but doesn't feel like the best fit for her role. For comparison (even if it requires referencing movies from different generations), this one is reminiscent of 2014's "The Fault in Our Stars" as well as the 1976 made-for-TV movie "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble". This movie's premise is inspired ? and screenwriter Alan Loeb's focus on the budding romance between Gardner and Tulsa personalizes the story ? but the improbability of much of the plot almost pushes it from science fiction into fantasy. Director Peter Chelsom strikes a good balance between the drama and the natural humor that would arise from the situations in such a story, but has trouble effectively blending the larger-than-life tale with the very personal saga at the film's core. Still, there are some cool twists. This movie is enjoyable, but there's too much space between its potential and its execution. "B"