Review: The Space Between Us (2017)

The Space Between Us (2017)

Directed by: Peter Chelsom | 120 minutes | adventure, drama, romance, science fiction | Actors: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Janet Montgomery, Trey Tucker, Scott Takeda, Adande ‘Swoozie’ Thorne, Sarah Minnich, Ryan Jason Cook, BD Wong, Lauren Myers, Morse Bicknell, Beth Bailey, Peter Chelsom, Carlo Gugino

What’s your favorite thing on earth? This is a sincere question from Gardner Elliot, a sixteen-year-old boy who grew up on Mars and – until recently – never set foot on Earth. This question also seems to be addressed to the public. What is your most favorite thing on Earth? Whether it’s rain, nature or a fellow human being, it’s important to think about it and think about it, because, as the film seems to say, it’s quite amazing that we live here and that we are surrounded by so many beauty, almost without us noticing. ‘The Space Between Us’ is an ode to the world and the people who live in it, but at the same time it also shows that we humans do not treat the world and our fellow human beings well enough. To make this clear to us, we need an outsider, someone who can point out what we have and how we should deal with it.

At the beginning of ‘The Space Between Us’, Dr. Nathaniel Shepherd gives a speech prior to the launch of a new mission to Mars, to create the possibility of life there. He gives examples of climate change and the depletion of fossil fuels, which can and will have disastrous consequences for the quality of life on Earth. We must look elsewhere for the future. This may seem far-fetched to some of us, after all it will not run that fast, but this seems to be the (scientific) reality. Also in real life they are busy developing space technology that should eventually bring us to Mars. Forerunner in this is Elon Musk (of Tesla Motors), who appears to be personalized in ‘The Space Between Us’ by Gary Oldman (Dr. Shepherd).

During the journey to Mars, it turns out that the chief astronaut, Sarah Elliot, is pregnant. Her child develops in ‘zero gravity’ and grows up in an environment with a much lower gravity than the earth. As a result, he will never be able to go to Earth, because his body can’t handle it. This kid is Gardner. When we meet him sixteen years later, he lives a quiet and protected life ‘in a bubble’, on Mars, while he is raised and trained by scientists. Somehow he has contact with Tulsa, a girl on Earth, with whom he video chats. Gardner wants to go to Earth, for Tulsa and to find his father. After the necessary preparations have been made (including operations and physical training), the time has come: Gardner goes to Earth. And when he comes here he is overwhelmed, so many colors, so many people, so many possibilities. With Tulsa, he embarks on a search – and road trip – for his father. Gardner is a gullible, naive, inexperienced ‘world traveler’. Tulsa, a girl going from foster home to foster home, is mad at the world and at everyone else. She, and we with her, may learn from Gardner to see the world with new eyes.

Asa Butterfield (known for ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ and ‘Hugo’) plays a convincing Gardner, with genuine amazement and wonder at the most normal things on earth (like a horse). He has taught himself a special gait (because of the different gravity on Earth and Mars) and continues to excel in his role. His amazement and naivety provide a number of funny moments and that gives a little more lightness in the rather serious film. Together with Britt Robertson (“The Longest Ride”, “Mother’s Day”), he makes a cute couple.

‘The Space Between Us’ is accompanied by well-known music by James Bay, among others, which will meet with recognition especially among the younger viewers, but which, even if you are not familiar with the music, sets a good tone for the atmosphere of the film .

Despite the deeper meaning that you can find in the film (we have to be happy with the world and the people around us, and therefore also be careful with it), ‘The Space Between Us’ is nothing more than an average film. The story sometimes feels a bit forced and despite the good acting it is not always convincing. There are some nice references in ‘The Space Between Us’ to other (old) films. For example, ‘North by Northwest’, which is referenced by an airplane scene, but more importantly ‘Der Himmel Über Berlin’ (1987), a film Gardner watches on Mars. The film seems to suggest that Gardner and Tulsa see each other as the angel, a being who is not like them but who both wish they were. There is an inaccessibility, but also a concern. Unfortunately, this symbolism will not be for the majority of the audience of ‘The Space Between Us’.

There’s more to and behind the ambitious ‘The Space Between Us’ than meets the eye, which may not quite come into its own, but as long as it gets us audiences thinking about the world and our job in that respect the film has achieved its goal.

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