Known for Serendipity, the J-Lo-starring remake of Shall We Dance and Miley Cyrus’ Disney-centric Hannah Montana: The Movie, director Peter Chelsom isn’t new to romance. Whilst his previous, most successful work dealt with the mature side of love, his latter appears to have de-generationalised itself, aiming more so for a tween audience in what can be apparent in both narrative and script.
As a shuttle heads for Mars to attempt the first ever colonisation, an astronaut on board soon finds out she’s pregnant. Unfortunately passing during birth from complications, her child, Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), is the first ever human born on another planet, known primarily to the walls of his confines, the vast, desert landscape and the handful of people there to work.
Striking an interplanetary relationship with pen pal Tulsa (Britt Robertson), Gardner’s wishes to return to Earth are made a reality. Finding Tulsa, they both head on a mission to find his biological father.
Allan Loeb’s screenplay is undoubtedly a few stones throw away from being trashcan cheese. The Space Between Us dabbles with science, action and romance, all on levels that breach any form of believability to the point where audiences with any sense of reality may find it particularly difficult to suspend disbelief enough to fully adhere to Gardner’s plight. Still, there’s enough intrigue in the science behind Mars’ first colonisation that, due to some impressive visuals, forms a narrative path that thrives on character progression and poignant motive; to find a family who’ve been sorely absent thus far.
When intrigue evolves to raised eyebrows however, plot holes begin to form craters in regards to genuine story development, relating to Gardner’s decline in health, his rapid relationship growth with Tulsa — inevitably a stranger, going from pen pals one moment, a seven month gap to essentially falling head over heels — and a seemingly villainous Gary Oldman and a questionable barrel of morals. It’s a quick-fire dash from state-to-state where the two teenagers find solace within one another whilst catapulting themselves out of moving crop planes, swiftly escaping government officials and getting intimate in the wild.
Butterfield’s grown from a boy in striped pyjamas to a thriving adolescent whereas Britt Robertson’s feisty teen figure parallels that of her character in Disney’s Tomorrowland. However, both are paired admirably, gaze into each other frequently and fire quippy remarks to ignite the odd spark to partially exude that adolescent twinkle. Their material, however, is undesirable at best. Falling prey to every predictable move in the book, cliché rides after cliché as the pair flee and cling to one another to culminate in nothing more than a preposterously over-the-top, emotionally-manipulative piece of tween drama.
Its melodramatic beats combine romance with science fiction without originality nor anything particularly outstanding. What it does achieve, though, is essentially pairing its stars together with enough chemistry to subdue to the sweet, albeit hokey, levels of high school love which surpasses, if for short bursts, any unintentional hilarity brought forth by anything that appears to be written by a twelve-year-old girl.
You may lose contact with Gardner long before he closes his chapter, but Chelsom’s interplanetary romance isn’t anything we’ve not seen before. Not by a long shot.
Dir: Peter Chelsom
Scr: Allan Loeb
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino
Prd: Richard Barton Lewis
Music: Andrew Lockington
DOP: Barry Peterson
Runtime: 120 minutes