The Space Between Us is a sentimental teen science fiction drama that centers around a boy, Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), whose mother died in childbirth shortly after climbing on board a spaceship bound for Mars.
Gardner was left with a few defects, the most prominent of them being an enlarged heart that prevents him from thriving in any atmosphere other than Mars.
Looking at the overall picture, all the characters had great chemistry and moments tugged at your heart, but it sometimes felt like the plot meandered after a while. However, it does subtly address the contemporary question of technology and how it fits into the relationships we have with others but also it evokes disconnection because of fears.
Because Gardner is considered a classified secret, Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman), the head director of the Mars Mission, locked him in a room on Mars. Because of that, Gardner also lacks social interaction with others except for the scientists around him including his guardian Kendra (Carla Gugino). When he is not talking to his only friend and growing crush Tulsa (Britt Robertson), who lives in Colorado, he builds his own personal robots and stirs the martian soil while gassing his white race car.
In the first few scenes we become acquainted with Gardner, it is evident he is bored and wants answers to his questions and wants to discover another life different than what he has. That means a couple major things for him, including meeting the father he’s never met and knows nothing of and experiencing the world on Earth that everyone there seems to take for granted.
In the movie, as Gardner first becomes acquainted with Earth, the color variation fascinates him as does the change from the hot and dusty weather he knows on Mars. He embraces the rain and yelps while people stare at him. He puts his hands near a fire beside a homeless shelter and soaks in the heat. He admires a caterpillar crawling on his finger and all the legs it has.
But we’ll have to give Tulsa a break, since she lives with a foster father who is intoxicated and asleep most of the time and she is all but invisible while at school. It has become so commonplace for her that she is numb to it, but jumps into a hypersensitive alert when she meets Gardner. He is so real that he scares her and she is unsure of how to decipher his strange behavior, except that she believes he is lying and just leading her on. He responds that just because something sounds crazy doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. Ironically, when they have this initial face-to-face interaction, he is the only one who acts as he truly is instead of how he is expected to act since he doesn’t know any better. On the other hand, she puts on somewhat of a tough front because she is used to others letting her down.
But she develops her own confidence when NASA arrives for Gardner and she does not want to give him up. She uses the airplane she built and has been trying to learn to fly as an escape route. The scary side note is that she hasn’t completely mastered her skills yet.
There are some touching cinematic scenes as well, such as when Tulsa and Gardner stop at a mountainside for the night while searching for his father. The silhouettes of their faces perfectly align as they slowly dance and start leaning in to share a kiss. In the background, sparks fly from the fire they have kindled to stay warm for the night.
All in all, Gardner is full of adventure to the point where he is fearless.
Near the middle of the movie when Gardner is making his own choices, some of which lead to drastic consequences, Nathaniel remarks: “As long as he was just a face on a screen, I could handle it…”
It brings into reality the perspective that you cannot live behind closed doors or stay glued to a screen and believe it will keep you safe. In the age where social media is rampant and you can be anyone you want, you also cannot expect to hide behind a facade forever. Eventually, you must emerge because your survival insists upon it because like it or not, we all depend on each other and must work through each other’s shortcomings.
If you are searching for a nonstop action plot that traps you in suspense and sets your heart and mind racing as you sit breathless in the dark theater, waiting for what will happen, don’t see The Space Between Us.
But if you need a brain break and some time to absorb some relaxation or kindle some inspiration, check it out.