Kyle J. Steenblik

The Space Between Us, Finally A Sci-Fi Romance for Kids [Review]

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space_between_usThe Space Between Us
Directed by: Peter Chelsom
Written by: Stewart Schill, Richard Barton Lewis, Allan Loeb
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman
Running time 121 minutes
Rated PG-13 for brief sensuality and language
2 1/2 stars out of 5

In this interplanetary adventure, a space shuttle embarks on the first mission to colonize Mars, only to discover after takeoff that one of the astronauts is pregnant. Shortly after landing, she dies from complications while giving birth to the first human born on the red planet – never revealing who the father is. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) – an inquisitive, highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing. While searching for clues about his father, and the home planet he’s never known, Gardner begins an online friendship with a street smart girl in Colorado named Tulsa (Britt Robertson). When he finally gets a chance to go to Earth, he’s eager to experience all of the wonders he could only read about on Mars – from the most simple to the extraordinary. But once his explorations begin, scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere. Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team of scientists and joins with Tulsa on a race against time to unravel the mysteries of how he came to be, and where he belongs in the universe. – courtesy STX Entertainment

Science fiction romance appears to be a new trend in films, and as two genres go these two can mix well, but if you add a third or fourth genera to the mix the result can be less than spectacular. That said the mix of Science Fiction, Romance, Comedy, into the Young Adult film category is not entirely unwatchable or unenjoyable. For instance, my eleven-year-old daughter was absolutely smitten with The Space Between Us, by the end she was fully invested in the characters and genuinely concerned about the outcome. I was, on the other hand, mildly entertained but no more than watching any light inoffensive and occasionally interesting or amusing film. It had no impact on me, and I would not expect it to, I am old enough to realize that adding interplanetary distances to a relationship is just a recipe for disaster. I don’t think having an audience think ‘cute, but that will never work out’ at the apex of the film. I also found myself being more interested in the circumstances and minor elements of the film, than the actual story, which was beyond predictable. For instance, there is a fantastic product placement scene involving BMW, and their new electric vehicle, and demonstrating how very easy it could be to steal. At that moment, I cared more about how they stole the car, than why they stole the car. Another reminder that The Space Between Us is for a much younger audience than myself.

Despite the shortcomings, of which there are many, there are many things that are done very well, and could make this a worthwhile and enjoyable film. The performances may be lowkey, but they are solid and reliable, Gary Oldman delivers a reliably high energy performance that sells his character, and shoulders much of the film. The concept of Martian colonization is fascinating, but not nearly enough time is spent on this topic, it is simply a matter of fact for the story and that universe. The multiple moral and ethical dilemmas that propel the story are fascinating, and worthy exploration beyond what is offered in The Space Between Us.

Given my personal experience I recommend taking your daughters, or nieces to see The Space Between Us. I loath to use the word wholesome to describe a film, but it is aptly applied here. As far as films for young adults, this is the best to come along in a long while. It does carry a PG-13 rating, but do not allow that to frighten you away, there is very little that warrants that high a rating. As a parent, there are far worse ways I could have spent an evening with my daughter.

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