The Space between Us (2017)

  • Time: 120 min
  • Genre: Adventure | Drama | Romance
  • Director: Peter Chelsom
  • Cast: Britt Robertson, Carla Gugino, Gary Oldman


The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be.

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  • “I want to go to Mars…to live there…because I would be living proof that life on Mars is possible…that mankind can make a fresh start.” These are the words written to the President by twelve-year-old Nathaniel Shepherd, who has grown up to be a visionary scientist (Gary Oldman) about to send an astronautical team of five men and one woman to live on a space station named East Texas on Mars and essentially be the planet’s first inhabitants.

    Unfortunately for Nathaniel, who has a brain condition that prevents him from experiencing interplanetary travel, his dream is almost undone when it is soon discovered that the female astronaut is pregnant (NASA apparently runs all manner of tests except ones for pregnancy) and conveniently due to give birth upon arrival at their destination. She dies in childbirth, though her son Gardner survives and Nathaniel and the rest of the NASA heads agree to keep him a secret as his existence could be a potential PR disaster for the mission and the venerable space agency.

    Sixteen years pass and Gardner (Asa Butterfield) has been raised in near isolation, with only about a dozen scientists, a robot named Centaur, and scientist/surrogate mother Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino) to keep him company. He watches tapes of his birth mother and his possible father over and over again, wishing he could go to Earth in order to find and connect with his father. Against the wishes of Nathaniel, who argues that Earth’s atmospheric pressure would be dangerous to someone who’s lived all their life in zero gravity, Gardner is allowed to visit Earth and is immediately frustrated upon realising that he’s meant to remain in quarantine so that the scientists can run a battery of tests on him.

    He somehow escapes and makes his way to Tulsa (Britt Robertson), the brash and sarcastic high-schooler with whom he’s been in constant video communication (because this type of technological communication works better between planets rather than within the planet). Since she’s a motorcycle-riding, bi-plane-hotwiring badass who’s lived in a series of foster homes, she decides to ditch everything and help Gardner hunt down his father as Nathaniel, Kendra and their teams hunt him down. Naturally, she teaches him to loosen up and not be so literal; he teaches her how to live life to the fullest.

    Essentially, it’s Starman meets The Boy in the Plastic Bubble meets The Fault in Our Stars meets Titanic meets Wings of Desire (a clip of which Gardner is shown watching almost reverentially) with very little of the charm of any of those films. Part of the problem is the pairing of Butterfield and Robertson. His natural deadpan makes it seem like she’s overplaying, whilst her spirited performance renders his portrayal wooden. Individually, they’re fine. Together, they’re borderline disastrous with dialogue like “You make me human” not helping matters in the least.

    It’s telling that the film garners interest when it pulls its focus from its star-crossed teen lovers to pay attention to Oldman and Gugino, who are both far more skilled in navigating the screenplay’s eye-rolling predictability and treacle.

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