Watching the new adventure romance The Space Between Us immediately made me think of a simpler time at the movies. Back in the 80s, we had coming of age films and feel good flicks with younger casts in such films as The Goonies or The Lost Boys. There was no angst, just adventures with young people conquering the world. The Space Between Us seems to capture that era of filmmaking.
This is only the tenth film for director Peter Chelsom, whose credits range from the mildly appealing (Serendipidty) to the forgettable (Hannah Montana: The Movie). He did redeem himself with 2014s Hector and the Search for Happiness, and I believe this movie may well help him continue on that path. He effectively captures the intergalactic coming-of-age of a young man essentially trapped on another world who comes to Earth in search of his young love and his unknown father.
Our story begins in 2018 as Nathanial Shepherd (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight) is spearheading a NASA mission to colonize Mars. Unfortunately, before they even arrive, it’s discovered that the mission commander is pregnant with the identity of the father unknown. The decision is made to keep it a secret in fear that the truth will overshadow the good public relations. When young Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield, Hugo) is born, his mother dies and it’s determined that Gardner must stay on Mars, in part because his body may not adjust to living on Earth.
We flash forward 16 years to find out that Gardner is being cared for by another woman on Mars (Carla Gugino, Watchmen) and that Shepherd has essentially become a hermit. He shows great compassion and concern for Gardner but is no longer in control of the mission. Gardner is brilliant and has been engaging in an online relationship with a young girl on Earth named Tulsa (Britt Roberson, Tomorrowland) and has acquired a picture of a man he believes to be his father. Through a series of events, Gardner eventually makes it to Earth and meets up with Tulsa. But his time is running out as his body is rejecting Earth and he wants to meet his father before it’s too late.
The Space Between Us is really geared more towards a younger audience but that shouldn’t deter adults from finding some enjoyment. Oldman and Gugino turn in good performances while essentially being secondary characters. The main focus is on Gardner and Tulsa as they travel cross country, have a series of adventures and begin to fall in love. What is most amusing is watching Gardner act like an alien on Earth, experiencing such things as rain and sub sandwiches for the first time. It reminded me of Starman and was equally as effective. There are some typical Hollywood clichés of trying to tie everything up with a nice bow with some twists and plot developments. It doesn’t necessarily hurt the movie but it does push it a little into the sometimes sappy drama category.
I recommend The Space Between Us as a good family movie that both parents and kids will enjoy. There are a few moments of sensuality between Gardner and Tulsa that might make some squirm a little (there are both underage after all) but nothing too graphic. Worth checking out and enjoying the good performances in a rather standard tale made more interesting with the mild sci-fi elements.