The Space Between Us movie review: Like a Nicholas Sparks novel with a space twist
Just when one thought the Young Adult genre of movies was dead, The Space Between Us pops up and continues to make the case for the genre to be permanently buried.
This is exactly the predictable, sappy and uninteresting tripe that audiences are quite tired of, and it’s difficult to find redeeming qualities to make the film worth recommending to anyone.
Directed by Peter Chelsom who has the earlier made the Hannah Montana movie and written by Alan Loeb who is responsible for the disastrous Collateral Beauty, The Space Between Us is exactly what you’d expect from a collaboration between the two.
The film, set in the future follows teenager Gardner (Asa Butterfield) who is raised on a space station on Mars by his foster parents. With a lot of questions about his real parents and how he ended up on a space station, he befriends a girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson) online and travels to Earth to find his real biological father. The twist is that Gardner’s body is not accustomed to Earth’s conditions so it becomes a race against time as Gardner romances Tulsa on a cross-country trip to his dad.
The problem is how painfully sentimental the whole film is treated, with an unearned conflict. The film plays out like a Nicholas Sparks novel with a space twist with all of the cloying and improbably contrivances that make your eyes roll. Every single scene is treated with a cheesy layer that attempts to grab your heartstrings violently.
Though both Butterfield and Robertson are good actors there is little chemistry between the two – especially since the latter is well into her twenties while the former is barely a teen. It’s an odd, off-putting romance that is not for one second believable, and when your entire film rests on the shoulders of the bittersweet love between the two there are bound to be problems.
The other issue is that the audiences are supposed to feel the awe and wonder of a human brought up on Mars landing on Earth for the first time – but it never comes through. Butterfield’s reactions are over the top but the emotion never transfers to the audience. Contrast this to any of the ‘Spielberg Face’ scenes, where the audiences are enraptured by the same wondrous look as the actors on screen look at something tremendous ahead of them.
This is also due to the fact that the technological wizardry in the film is treated as something you’ve never seen before, but in fact you have, in far better science fiction films.
An interesting angle in the film is where Gardner is treated as the alien landing on the Earth – one wishes the filmmakers explored this in further detail considering the cynical consequences of how mankind would react to this situation.
The problematic conflict between Gardner and his father played by Gary Oldman never achieves more than a predictable solution, and while we get the issue of estranged parenting there’s little to learn or empathize with either of the characters. With no satisfying solution to any of the many fallouts in the film, this is a tough watch, and also a wake up call for Butterfield who showed so much promise in Hugo a few years ago.