April issue 2017
Movie Review: Space Between Us
What if the space between you and your loved ones is around 33.9 million miles? And that too, at the closest approach. That’s the space between Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) and the father he never met and whose identity he does not know, and the distance between the girl he has met online and taken a shine to. All this in the film, The Space Between Us. Elliot is the first human-Martian to be born on the red planet. His mother, a single woman, and an exceptionally vibrant astronaut is part of a team of scientists on a four-year colonising mission in Mars. She leaves Earth not realising she is pregnant. Elliot’s entire gestation takes place during travel in space, and she gives birth to him immediately after arrival at the Mars space station — dying shortly thereafter due to various complications caused by atmospheric anomalies.
Mars’ low gravity also impacts Elliot’s entire physiology. He has an enlarged heart and bones too brittle to survive Earth’s gravity. Fear of a public backlash because of the inherent danger for a pregnant woman travelling in space — and the agency’s having missed it — and thereby losing the space agency’s funding, NASA and head of the space prgrogramme, Nathanial Shepard (Gary Oldman) decide to hide Elliot’s existence.
Fast-forward 16 years: Elliot grows up in isolation, surrounded by teams of busy astronauts and scientists who, unlike him, have the freedom to return to Earth. Except for his physical limitations, Elliot is a regular, politely rebellious teenager, yearning to experience the wonders of Earth and, more importantly, to find his father and meet Tulsa (Britt Robertson) — a high school street smart teenager from Colorado — and also a misfit — with whom he has secretly established an online friendship, disguising his origins.
Eventually, he convinces his protective space guardian, astronaut Kendra (Carla Gugino), to become his enabler and help him overcome various obstacles that prevent him from voyaging to Earth. On arrival there, however, Elliot experiences the weight of the Earth’s atmosphere and is again kept restricted by NASA to monitor any signs of deteriorating health. Sensing he has very little time, Elliot escapes to meet Tulsa, only to be slapped at first greeting for being incommunicado while travelling — unaware he had journeyed between planets to see her.
Elliot encounters a few more hiccups in their friendship when he tries to confide to her that he is actually a man from Mars. It takes NASA authorities, Shepard and Kendra, at Elliot’s heels, to convince Tulsa of the truth, and thereafter both strike out on their own to locate Elliot’s father. Unfortunately, from here on the film becomes a bit lacklustre — even as romance blossoms between the runaway duo crossing state lines. And the audience gets to experience some vivid landscapes and nuances of human nature through Elliot’s eyes.
What was an unusual concept and storyline devolves into a teenage love story for YA. All in all, a straightforward coming-of-age film in which the filmmakers try teenage romance and a sci-fi frontier, after having tried time travel, ghosts and the supernatural, vampirism and under the sea. Now, Mars.
The writer is a documentary filmmaker and activist. She is working with the Newsline as editorial assistant.