Film: The Space Between Us
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino
Director: Peter Chelsom
The perfect date movie for Valentine’s Day, this sci-fi adventure romance between a 16 year old teen born and raised on Mars and a street-smart redneck earthling hits the right notes on persistence; courage, friendship and love while stressing the need to connect, only connect as E M Forster urged so succinctly.
The film’s title harks to the yawning gulf of distance which makes it impossible to touch, smell, or experience a loved one. But absence makes the heart grow fonder. And the world is shrinking thanks to technology which enables communication oblivious to physical distance. Digital communication is a fairy godmother of sorts in facilitating the yearning that Martian-human Gardner Elliott (Butterfield, heart achingly vulnerable) feels for Colorado dirt poor smart cookie
Tulsa (Britt Robertson, strong) ,the first human born on the Red Planet leads cloistered life bereft of company his age.
Lonely, he often quizzes foster mom Kendra (Gugino) who in turn harangues the Mars mission’s billionaire financier, Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) who had opted out of the program wracked with guilt, after a pregnant young woman he had sent to Mars, died in childbirth; without revealing the identity of the father. For the most part then, the movie focuses on the angst of the boy who spends his leisure time watching Hollywood classics and images of his dead mother.
The viewer is given to understand NASA didn’t want to take risks with an astronaut’s pregnancy but the movie is less than convincing as to why the baby was raised in secret on Mars. Don’t let that impede your enjoyment of gorgeously lensed landscapes of planet earth or your compassion for the boy on a triple quest: love, a parent and his own Self. There’s a twist in the tale when he does get to meet the man he believes is his father, after a long road trip through magically mysterious deserts capes, heated arguments (and meaningful ones too) about life; but the plot twist propels him in another direction.
Despair. Time is running out for Gardner just like it did for the terminally ill heroine in Erich Segal’s Love Story. Thank goodness, this movie is life-affirming. The fish out of water sequences of Gardner’s experiences on earth are handled well. Tulsa’s morals are elastic but the film justifies her behaviour. Like when she steals cars. She also tells fibs. Gardner can only speak the truth. And yet, and yet, they are soul mates. The gulf separating the two is only spatial which can be overcome.
It’s interesting how the film illuminates character. The orphan Gardner is raised (lovingly) by a scientist who couldn’t have children of her own. Tulsa passes through a series of foster homes and still retains a zest for education.
A quibble It’s a fact that astronauts bodies change after extended periods of weightlessness but it’s never clear why gravity, and planet earth itself affects Gardner in the way it does Me, I didn’t sweat over that. Rather, I enjoyed seeing Gardner’s awe and wonder on experiencing earth. He reminded me in a way of little Jack Newsome who was raised inside the confines of the “Room”. All things considered, The Space Between Us makes for heart warming cinema.