The Space Between Us
A young boy experiences Earth for the first time after a life spent in isolation growing up on Mars in Peter Chelsom’s The Space Between Us.
The most striking thing about The Space Between Us is that the film is a lot of things while also being nothing. It’s about a young boy experiencing Earth for the first time, it’s a teenage romance, a story of humanity expanding out into the stars, a road trip movie and a chase movie. All of these things are potentially interesting if you do them right but throwing them in a blender and hoping the end result will be something good definitely isn’t the way to do it.
Most of the focus is given to the teenage romance between Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) and Tulsa (Britt Robertson). All other sins could have been forgiven if this relationship had made for engaging viewing. It doesn’t! Butterfield and Robertson have no romantic chemistry together which makes any romantic entanglements seem forced and awkward. There’s a love scene around the mid point of the film that is particularly bad but none of their interactions work terribly well. Everything about their relationship development feels contrived and unoriginal with all too familiar beats signifying the growth of their feelings.
There was potential in the idea of a boy from Mars and a girl from Earth developing a connection over the vast distance between the two planets. Essentially what we have here is a long distance relationship taken to an extreme but the film doesn’t really do anything with it. When the characters are introduced they have already been exchanging messages for a significant amount of time and have got to the best friend stage. How did they meet? What draws them together? How did they become so close? None of these questions are answered so the relationship doesn’t have a solid basis right from the beginning. A more interesting film would have played up the long distance aspect and explored that. Even the title suggests a long distance relationship so the fact that it doesn’t explore this is baffling.
It’s a pity this doesn’t work because the actors are very capable on their own. Asa Butterfield nails the awkward teen from another world aspect of the character with just enough naivety and confusion to be engaging with a hint of tragedy to the fact that he has been isolated for so long. It’s an engaging performance for such a thinly written character. Britt Robertson is good at playing the thick skinned and abrasive girl who has spent her life in the foster system. She’s cynical but has a hidden desire for love and affection. Robertson easily brings these layers to the character who is also thinly written.
Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino are also vastly underused but given how over the top Oldman’s character is that might be a good thing. They are laughably incompetent pursuing the wayward teens who inexplicably manage to avoid them at every single turn. The chase aspect of the film generally has a lack of urgency to it despite the ticking clock on Gardner’s ability to survive on Earth so that’s another misfire for this film.
So much of this film feels forced even beyond the things I’ve said. Almost every scene is framed in such a way that it should be something profound and life changing but the constant onslaught of that becomes a joke very quickly. Every single character wears their hearts on their sleeves which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it amounts to long scenes of people discussing how they feel without actually showing it.
I did enjoy the early scenes where there was lots of discussion about what colonising Mars would be like for the people and the potential problems that a child might develop when the entire pregnancy happened in zero gravity. In some ways it’s like The Martian for Young Adults as it hits on many of the same ideas in a much more simplistic way. This only applies to the early scenes that end far too quickly.
Mercifully the film isn’t all that long and the constant change in focus prevents it from feeling too boring. None of it is all that good but there’s something compelling about watching something that is so poorly put together try to tell a story. There is potential in here but somewhere along the line those involved forgot to make this film actually about anything and that’s ultimately why it fails.
An absolute mess of a film that squanders any potential that it had. The main problem is that it doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be about so tries to be so many things while failing at all of them. Most of the focus goes on the teenage romance but that fails because of a lack of chemistry and really forced profound moments that just feel awkward. It’s a pity because the individual performance are compelling on their own but they don’t work when put together. The romance is impossible to engage in because the basis for it is so underdeveloped and it never recovers from that. Everything else about the film feels forced as well outside of the early space scenes that speculate on what living on Mars might be like as well as pregnancies that develop in zero gravity. At least it isn’t a long film and the constant shifts in focus keep it from becoming boring.
- the individual performances of Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson
- interesting points made about living on Mars and pregnancies developing in zero gravity
- an awkward, forced and unengaging teenage romance
- a complete lack of focus squandering any potential the film had
- pretty much everything feeling forced and unnecessarily profound