The Space Between Us movie director: Peter Chelsom
The Space Between Us movie cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino
The Space Between Us has many “facts” (Mars’s low gravity would make our bones brittle), much science (‘carbon nanotube’ injections help make those bones stronger), and a smattering of alternative facts (in 2034, we would be communicating with people, random normal Earthlings, on Mars in real time). However, only one fact really matters: February 14 is upon us. And what’s a couple of planets and 70-odd million miles between love?
For this isn’t just a boy meets love story, this is a “boy with an enlarged heart” meeting an “orphaned girl” story. You could call it Fault In Our Stars, on zero gravity. They don’t just bump into each other and set off into the sunset. They converse over a couple of years at least while he is stuck on Mars and she with another no-good foster parent, and then set off into the sunset in a series of cars across America’s well-travelled landscapes. He dotes on Wim Winders’s Wings of Desire, where an angel (aka person from sky) seeks to become human; she composes music when no one is looking. He is looking for a parent, she has had one too many; and chasing them is a woman whose husband divorced her as she couldn’t bear children, and a man whose interest in the boy can only have one reason, irrespective of the film’s efforts at keeping it secret.
The beginning is a mission, to Mars, whose chief astronaut discovers she is pregnant two months in. The owner of the private company behind the mission, with his unkempt long hair, his track lowers a few fingers short, and sneakers, is Nathaniel Shepherd (Oldman). After a confused speech where he starts by fretting about a human life at stake and concludes with the importance of good PR, Shepherd decides the mission shall go ahead, though a life in Mars would mean the child wouldn’t be able to survive the trip home. As it happens, the only person who could have cared, the mother, dies in childbirth, and the boy remains a classified secret.
That’s an interesting premise. But the film lets 16 years pass, some would say likely the best 16 the film could have explored, only to connect with Gardner (Butterfield) as a painfully thin youth discovering hormones, curiosity and anger.
After a few scenes venting anger that could have belonged in The Martian, hormones, curiosity and anger take Gardner to Earth. Before curiosity and anger are given short shrift, gravity gets a mention with a chemical called Troponin, and hormones take over. They lead Gardner to Tulsa (Robertson), the resourceful orphan girl he has been communicating with who jumps from a piano to a bicycle, to a crop duster chopper, to stealing a car, all in a day’s work.
Earth is a beautiful place all in all, in director Chelsom’s imagination. In the course of their run, Gardner, who is by now showing the ill effects of Earth’s gravity, and Tulsa also run into Earth’s most beautiful creatures apparently, the Native Americans.
Before Mars takes over.