Space travel has always been an option, a point of countless ‘what if stories’, but as scientific exploration grows, so do our limitations on what can be based in reality. The fact that we are on the verge of colonizing Mars presents a new realm of possibilities, especially topped with the shortcomings of human existence. For example, what would happen if an astronaut unknowingly got pregnant as she was on her way to Mars?
That is exactly the question that is posed in the new film The Space Between Us, and the story that follows explores the consequences for her son. Born an orphan, Gardner (Asa Butterfield) has only known life with scientists as his surrogate parents. Like most teenagers, he longs for an exploration of life outside his bubble, but his complications go beyond the normality of strict parents. An opportunity presents itself for Gardner and his guardian Kendra (Carla Gugino) to travel to back to Earth, which leads to his rebellious adventure.
The film’s focus may be centered on a romantic bond between Gardner and his internet friend Tulsa (Britt Robertson), but the heart of the film is on a variety of relationships and how they impact us emotionally. Throughout our lives we are placed in situations where we are constantly surrounded by people, and when we find those who rare people make an impact on our soul, it’s an incredible experience.
The relationship between Tulsa and Gardner is well explored and genuine. They’ve spent months (maybe even years) communicating with each other through chatrooms so when they finally meet it’s understandable why they bond so quickly. The friendship felt real, not forced, and the growth between them showed just how much distance doesn’t have to play a role in deep connections. It was interesting watching them bond together as they partake in an epic journey, creating a sense of intimacy that we sometimes don't foster in our own lives.
Another important relationship is the one shared between Gardner and Kendra. We do not know how long she’s been on Mars with him, but that element is not necessarily important to the story. Instead what is important is the fact that blood doesn’t not make a family, relationships do. In a time when femininity is being called into question, this proves you can be a mother even if you didn’t go through pregnancy and childbirth. There is no doubt these two love each other deeply, which also includes friction.
This is a sci-fi film, a situation that we haven’t experienced, creating opportunities that have yet to be explored. How can an actor portray a human who was born in space, raised on Mars, and conducts an adventure on Earth? Butterfield does a beautiful job tackling this with extraordinary talent. This might sound comical, but his spacial work was captivating to watch. He created this unique character yet grounded him in reality that allows the audience to still connect with him even with vastly different backgrounds.
Unfortunately, these are the elements that were the finest points of the story, as the film had elements that were less desirable to this reviewer. The structure at times felt stagnate, with no real complications to move the story forward. Some of the important characters were questionable and didn’t allow for the proper amount of sympathy to develop for what was needed for the characters.
This film takes place in the distant future, and there is some detail put on the advanced technology the youth have access to. While this is interesting to see, and ponder what it would all eventually look like, those advancement seem to hinder the story. We are aware that Gardner is a “fish out of water” because he’s Martian, but if he can navigate through a chat room across the universe he shouldn’t be shocked by elements of human life on earth. Surely he’s surfed enough of the internet like normal teenagers that our world wouldn’t be confusing to him.
There are other elements that seem to be too easy for the plot to workout. Out of all the high schools in Arizona, someone who is new to all of Earth can find the exact school at the exact time that his pen-pal is getting out of class? Sure, these are elements that need to be in place for the plot to move forward, which is understandable, but things seemed too easy too often. When there are so many things that seem to happen by chance, the components necessary for the plot flow get bogged down in the category of unbelievability.
To be fair, though, this film was made for a youthful, hopeful crowd. Those who can find optimism in the toughest of situations without over complicated explanations, and for those who want nothing more than to find a love story in the most unlikely of places. For all of these things, The Space Between Us does just that for it’s audience. It’s an fascinating story to explore, with an interesting character leading the way.
The Space Between Us opens nation wide on Friday February 3rd.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by STX Entertainment