Director: Peter Chelsom
Starring: Gary Oldman, Asa Butterfield, Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson
If this film taught me anything, it’s to maybe do a little reading up on the plot of a film and not just watching 1 trailer before going and wasting 2 hours of my life that I’m never going to get back. The trailer gave off a real sci-fi vibe and whilst it did also give off the impression of a slight romantic edge to the film, I thought this would be a sideline to the sci-fi aspect of the film. Well, it turns out it’s the opposite way round and I spent the majority of the 121 minute run-time questioning why I was even watching this film…
Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery) is a NASA Astronaut on an interplanetary mission to be the first to colonize Mars, but during her journey to the red planet she discovers that she’s pregnant. Sarah sadly dies during childbirth due to complications, so Nathaniel Shepard (Gary Oldman), the CEO of the organisation behind the mission, makes the controversial decision to keep the birth of the child a secret to anyone back on Earth so his organisation doesn’t have a PR nightmare on their hands. The story then fast forwards 16 years where Sarah’s son, Gardener Elliot (Asa Butterfield), is now adamant he wants to go to Earth so he can meet his father, but because he’s spent his entire life in Mars’ atmosphere, the scientists at NASA tell him his body wouldn’t be able to handle Earth’s atmosphere. After undergoing surgery to increase his bone density, Gardner returns to Earth and won’t let anyone get in the way of him finding his father, so he enlists the help of Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a girl he’s grown close to via an internet chat-room, to help him.
The premise of the film had my attention up until it ended up turning into a teenage romance film that is full to the brim of clichés and cheese. The scenes where Gardener is on Mars are probably the only scenes I actually enjoyed. We learned how intelligent this 16 year old is, experience a little of his life on Mars surrounded by scientists from across the world, and learn why he’s so desperate to go to Earth. Once Gardener meets up with Tulsa on Earth, the film becomes very predictable and honestly quite boring to watch. Butterfield and Robertson’s time on screen together felt awkward the whole way through, and for me I think it’s because they were playing characters that were both supposed to be 16 years of age, but 20 year old Butterfield still genuinely looks 16 whereas Robertson, who is 27, does not. Right from their first meeting I clocked this and for the rest of the film it was just weird to watch them together. Age differences aside, their performances were quite bland and uninspiring, and they didn’t really have any on-screen chemistry.
Gary Oldman’s performance, along with the first 15 minutes of the film, are the only things I enjoyed about ‘The Space Between Us’. Oldman, as ever, was a joy to watch, despite his character not being the most likeable of people. But as the story unfolds and we learn more about him, you learn why his character made the decisions he did and you find yourself empathizing with him. The film had such a promising premise, but once Gardener’s feet touch down on Earth the film completely lost any notion of sci-fi-ness that seemed so promising at the start, and it becomes over sentimental, predictable, and downright boring.
I will hand it to Barry Peterson though, the cinematography made for enjoyable viewing during this 2 hour snooze fest. On Gardener’s journey to find his Dad, we get to see the places he travels through and some stunning shots of the surrounding landscapes. I much preferred looking at the scenery than Butterfield and Robertson being all awkward and cringey.
Unless awkward teen romance, slow and boring boy meets girl films, or highly predictable endings are your kind of thing, I’d say you’re not really missing out if you don’t ever watch this film. All I could think of when I left the cinema screening was “I’m so glad Asa Butterfield didn’t bag the Spider-Man role” , as he was one of the names in the hat to play the role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before, thankfully, Tom Holland secured the role of the web-slinging teen.