The most baffling thing about The Space Between Us is that it ain’t an adaptation. It reads like a YA sci-fi romance novel. It’s like someone saw only the title to The Fault in Their Stars a couple of years ago, heard about its success, and decided, ‘Sure, I could do that.’ That someone is Allan Loeb, hot off the wheels of December’s car crash, Collateral Beauty, which this film in not as bad as.
So weird though, there’s just these problems that would be completely understandable if they were adaptation hangovers. For example, the main character, Gardner, grows up on Mars and the reduced gravity is supposed to have resulted in his being unnaturally tall. A device which works fine in a book, because a line of text establishes the fact and from then on it’s just a part of the character. It comes up often enough here as his most recognisable feature, a characteristic that alienates him from his peers. Asa Butterfield is not particularly tall. It would be excusable is that was a key part of the source material, but there is no source material there is just this film.
It’s a rot that goes so deep, important plot points are hastily set up as though we were expecting them already, connective tissue seems gutted as we bounce from setpiece to setpiece as though there too much to cram into the running time. This short scene at a sorta gas station which you know would have been a full chapter. It’s the epitome of a movie which is, ‘Meh, but the book’s better.’ If there were ever even a book in the first place.
The story itself is something of a straight tween fantasy, which I can’t judge to harsh cos I myself was guilty of many straight fantasies in my tween years. Asa Butterfield plays Gardner, a child born on Mars after his mother, one of the crew on the first colonisation missions, discovers herself pregnant while en route. She, of course, dies delivering the baby, because the script requires the child to be alone, and because you can’t have this single sexually active young woman go unpunished. Eugh.
The space agency, a collaboration between NASA and an Elon Musk SpaceX type dealie, decide to keep the child’s existence secret. Despite their best efforts he befriends a young woman over Instant Messenger and, upon his first visit to Earth escapes to try to find her and then together track down his father. It’s harmless really, nothing too shocking or offensive or bold. Hell, even my normal aversion to boring straight boy movies wasn’t firing because the film usually presents him as this vessel of non-toxic masculinity.
Asa Butterfield does a good job with it, as he has tended to do with most of his roles. He’s an engaging presence, I just wish he’d be more adventurous in the roles he picks. Kid nineteen now, and I want to get to see him dig his teeth into some meatier characters. Gary Oldman’s here too, doing a bang up job with the nothing role he’s put into, just great work, I’m not sure why he took the job but I don’t judge him for it.
It’s a step up for director Peter Chelsom too, whose last film was the bougouir nightmare Hector and the Search for Happiness (the film that proved conclusively that it is possible to hate Simon Pegg.) But just because it isn’t a nightmare doesn’t mean it’s a dream and this average, average film certainly ain’t that.
I don’t wanna hate on it too much, it’s the sort of movie I’d have enjoyed so much when I was at the right age. It harmless too, unfortunately what it isn’t is good. It’s just real boring. If you’re a young straight kid, who knows, you might enjoy it; just go see something more interesting anyway.