THE SPACE BETWEEN US review by Mark Walters – Asa Butterfield travels the stars for love

THE SPACE BETWEEN US review by Mark Walters – Asa Butterfield travels the stars for love


The concept of two people meeting from a distance and finding a way to come together is one that Hollywood loves. Long distance romances are great for film, as the audience knows the two folks on screen will likely end up together, but the journey that gets them there is what makes it fun. THE SPACE BETWEEN US takes this idea to new levels, bringing together two teens who are literally worlds apart.

In the not too distant future, a Elon Musk-esque scientist named Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) works from Earth to launch a space shuttle mission with the intent to colonize Mars, but soon discovers (after takeoff) that one of the astronauts is pregnant. After landing on the red planet, the astronaut sadly dies after complications while giving birth to the first human born there, and there’s an added layer of mystery as she never reveals the father. Cut to some years later, and this begins the story of Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), an inquisitive and highly intelligent boy who reaches the age of 16 having only met 14 people in his very unconventional upbringing on Mars. 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. But scientists discover that Gardner’s organs can’t withstand Earth’s atmosphere. Eager to find his father, Gardner escapes the team and links up with Tulsa, beginning a sort of road trip of self-discovery and romance.

While some might expect THE SPACE BETWEEN US to be a Sci-Fi film, those elements are actually a small part of a much bigger story. The core tale is about two young people finding each other despite incredible odds, and the importance of living and embracing life. Through Asa Butterfield’s performance as Gardner, we see what it must be like to experience Earth for the first time when you’re 16, knowing only life on a desolate and lonely planet. Little things we take for granted, like seeing a horse walking toward you or walking the halls of a busy high school, these are wonders to take in and marvel at for Gardner, and Butterfield finds a definite realism in his performance that really sells the character. It’s also sweet to see this boy who is un-phased by things like money or politics, focused only on the relationships he knows and makes on the spot. The added complication of our hero’s health failing by the minute makes the story even more endearing, as we feel like whatever happiness he can discover will undoubtedly be short-lived. Britt Robertson is quite good as well as Tulsa, the strong-willed high school outcast who shows there really is someone for everyone. It’s a little amusing to realize that Robertson is actually 24 playing a teen, though she pulls it off well. And Gary Oldman is (of course) wonderful as the ambitious scientist behind the Mars mission who is unable to make the trip himself. He brings a layer of gravitas to the story, and it’s interesting to see how his character ultimately fits in the mix of what all is going on. Carla Gugino also plays a large role in the movie, as Gardner’s Mars-based guardian who travels to Earth with him and eventually ends up looking for him when he escapes. Gugino is an actress I always enjoy watching, and it seems like we don’t see enough of her lately, so she’s a welcome addition to the cast. All of the actors deliver strong performances, but Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson discover a magical chemistry that really makes this a blast to watch, and ultimately makes up for whatever shortcomings the production might have.

While the core of the film is essentially a road trip, there’s some interesting twists toward the end that make things even more layered. The finale may feel a little too nice and neat for some people, but the overall result (especially as a young adult romance) is quite engaging and fun. This was pushed back a few times, originally slated for August 2016, then December of last year which would have put it up against ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY… I think STX Entertainment made the right decision holding it until February, as it has a much better chance of finding an audience now. Someone like myself may not necessarily be that target demographic, but I can say I enjoyed the film very much for what it was. It actually reminded me of some of the fantastical flicks like it from the early 1980s, like PROJECT X or even STARMAN. If you’re looking for some enjoyable Valentine’s Day fare, THE SPACE BETWEEN US is an otherworldly treat everyone can enjoy.

THE SPACE BETWEEN US opens February 3, 2016

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.