The Space Between Us

 

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A romantic fantasy about what it means to be human.

 

Space Between Us, The

 

What if you’ve got used to people lying to you? Then, the one boy you want to believe in, tells you he’s from Mars… Peter Chelsom’s The Space Between Us is many things, but at its heart it’s a love story. It’s the story of a boy in love with Earth, of daring to take a leap of faith, of being prepared to go the extra mile. The space between Gardner Elliot and Tulsa is 140 million miles, but she is all he’s got, so he’s prepared to put in the distance.

 

And here’s another “what if?” What if, in the future, the leader of a mission to Mars discovers that, on the way, she is pregnant? In spite of the risks, she gives birth on the Red Planet and her son is forced to grow up surrounded by astronauts. The boy is Gardner, and with all that tech at his disposal, he learns a lot about science. But, being a classified ‘secret,’ he has nobody his own age to interract with. So he strikes up an anonymous correspondence with a schoolgirl on Earth, a girl who seems to share so many of his own feelings of alienation. Then, one day, aged 19, he is transported back to Earth to undergo extensive medical tests to see if he can survive on the planet from which his own parents came. But Gardner has only one thing on his mind…

 

One of the many pleasures of this utterly beguiling romantic fantasy is seeing our own world through fresh eyes. After Gardner breaks out of the Kennedy Space Center (remember, he knows his way around such high-tech facilities), the lad finds himself in ‘the real world.’ His stock question to complete strangers is, “What’s your favourite thing about Earth?” And his answer to how he’s feeling is invariably, “I feel heavy.” The change in gravity is the least of his problems as he adjusts to a new kind of etiquette where nobody seems to say what they mean. He says it as he sees it because nobody taught him to lie.

 

As the gawky, awkward and ingenuous runaway, Asa Butterfield hands in another sincere, appealing turn, building on the repertoire of outsiders he has played in Hugo, X+Y and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Tulsa, the foster teenager who cannot fathom Gardner’s unorthodox ways, Britt Robertson is a spirited foil for Butterfield’s gaucherie. Now aged 26, Robertson is ready to leave her teens behind her and to take on some serious adult characters.

 

No less impressive in equally signifcant roles are Gary Oldman as the British head of the original space mission and Carla Gugino as the astronaut who acts as Gardner’s surrogate mother. The script, too, is packed with lines you want to scribble down, from Oldman’s cautionary, “Mother Nature doesn’t negotiate,” to Gardner’s heart-breaking question to Gugino: “How am I supposed to act on Earth, with the people?” The photography is also exceptional, with its vistas of Colorado and the Grand Canyon making one grateful that we live on such an amazing planet. And like all good fantasy, the film holds up a magical mirror to the inadequacies of our own reality.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Gary Oldman, Asa Butterfield, Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson, B.D. Wong, Janet Montgomery, Gil Birmingham.

 

Dir Peter Chelsom, Pro Richard Barton Lewis, Screenplay Allan Loeb, Ph Barry Peterson, Pro Des Kirk M. Petruccelli, Ed David Moritz, Music Andrew Lockington, Costumes Christopher Lawrence.

 

Huayi Brothers Pictures/Los Angeles Media Fund/Southpaw Entertainment-Entertainment Film Distributors. 

120 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 10 Febrary 2017. Cert. PG.