Often when you are in love with someone you try to find ways to measure that love. It causes you to say things like, “I love you to the moon and back.” Now that is pretty impressive to me, but like most things in life there is always that one who tries to one up you. That is what I kept thinking about for “The Space Between Us.” When someone told another person “I love you to Mars and Back”, and a light bulb went off and the idea of a boy on mars came about. Now I know that isn’t what really happened, but then I couldn’t have had this opening all about that now could I?
What you might be thinking to yourself, how did a boy get on Mars? Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) has had a dream since he was a kid of people living on Mars. Unlike most kids, he was made that dream a reality and a group of astronauts was bound for Mars, and eventually lived there for five years. Everything is going according to plan, until they find out their lead astronaut is pregnant. Having no choice but to have the child on Mars, they do, but you wouldn’t be able to bring the kid back home. The reason is simple enough, the atmosphere is different on Mars, and the kid would not be able to survive on Earth. Fast forward years later and the kid is Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), who NASA has kept secret from the world. Gardner’s curiosity though has led him to meet Tulsa (Britt Robertson), whom is really his only friend. Gardner has made up a story about being confined to a penthouse in N.Y. City. As much as Gardner wants to go to Earth, the trip could kill him, so he is kept on Mars where he feels isolated. Good things come to those who wait, and Gardner gets to finally come to Earth. When he gets here things are not much better than they were on Mars. Gardner is not having that and escapes to find Tulsa, and to find his father all while taking in the planet he never knew.
I would like to say you experience this film a lot like Gardner does with his time on Earth, but that would not be true. Instead you feel like he did on Mars, where there is very little life. The story never lets you feel the feelings of discovery and awe that the film’s characters feel. What it leaves you with is a question on who this film is for. It is a little too risqué for the pre teen market, and a little too boring for teenagers and really anyone for that matter. Butterfield and Robertson are good and make the best of the material they are given. What they can never get past is that it’s just boring and makes the two-hour runtime feel much longer. I kept thinking of the John Travolta film “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” as I watched this. The difference though is at least that movie has a boy in a plastic bubble, which it seems more interesting than a boy from Mars. I wanted to like this, but found it hard to find much that was likable at all. Like Gardner before he came to Earth, this film is better kept as a secret that no one knows about.