Director Peter Chelsom has had an interestingly feel-good career behind the camera.
He first caught my attention when he cast Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) in a strange and unusual supporting role alongside Sharon Stone in “The Mighty” (1998). His other feel-good movies “Town & Country,” “Serendipity” and “Shall We Dance” are all titles you would never have remembered if I didn’t bring them up. “The Space Between Us” is one of the bigger budget films Chelsom has been involved in, although he once again dabbles in “feel-good” themes.
Outer space a hot commodity right now in the cinematic universe; this part teenage love story, part futuristic life on Mars flick manages to stay away from a lot of stereotypes. Calling it sweet feels like pity, but that’s where “The Space Between Us” lands.
Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) has created a program for NASA called Genesis that has not only sent astronauts to Mars, but has them living there. Captain Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery) discovers she is pregnant before her team even touches down on the red planet in 2018. Shepherd and his team reluctantly vote to keep the child’s birth and existence classified. Garder (Asa Butterfield) is the first human born on Mars and grows up living in a bubble, raised by scientists. At age 16, in the year 2034, he has made a connection with a teenager in Colorado that he desperately wants to visit, and experience normal life on Earth. His birth outside Earth’s atmosphere resulted in an enlarged heart and other complications, which make life on our planet nearly impossible. Gardner is willing to risk everything to find the identity of his father and meet the girl of his dreams.
There is both a dramatic (sometimes overly) side to this film as well as a fun side, the film’s music is your emotional tour guide. The story wants to ground itself in plausibility and does a decent job at selling the audience believable futuristic space endeavors. Where the film weaves in and out of reality has more to do with how did these teens on the run get a Sam’s card, or why are cars too easy to steal, or why does a barn explode like it has nuclear weapons inside. Much of the romantic stuff, especially when paired with Gardner’s medical issues is highly overstated and too melodramatic. “The Space Between Us” is at its best when the characters are allowed to enjoy their awkward chemistry between the chasing and thrill moments.
Whether you can buy into what this movie is selling, one thing is for sure, Asa Butterfield (“Ender’s Game,” “Hugo”) has come a long way. At 19 years old, his charisma and smile is euphoric, and his naturally awkward nature is perfectly exploited here. Oldman (“The Dark Knight”) is somewhat miscast, but his talents and presence help elevate an otherwise starless picture. Britt Robertson, however, steps back into “The Longest Ride,” “Tomorrowland” type role she has become typecast in. “The Space Between Us” makes great use of New Mexico with the famous hot balloon festival coloring the sky and the stunning (although likely visually aided) yellow foliage trees in rural Colorado. The film tries to parlay some of its suspense into Garland’s hunt for his father, but astute viewers will be able to call that mystery in the first scene.
Final Thought — Cute best describes this love story told on two different planets.