STX Entertainment
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya
Grade: B
Director:  Peter Chelsom
Written by: Allan Loeb, story by Stewart Schill
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Carla Gugino, Janet Montgomery, Gary Oldman, B.D. Wong
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 1/25/17
Opens: February 3, 2017

“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus,” in the immortal words of John Gray whose book by that title sold fifty million copies.  In directing “The Space Between Us,” Peter Chelsom, who takes an acting part in the film as the voice of a robot, is on a similar wavelength by dealing with the space between one young man from Mars and one young woman from Earth.  Chelsom, whose “Hector and the Search for Happiness” deals with a psychiatrist who searches the globe for the secret of happiness, appears now to believe that you have to search even farther; one hundred forty million miles, to set up a meet-cute between planets.  “The Space Between Us” is both a science fiction tale and a high-school romance, managing to bridge any gap handily–largely to the credit of the two principal actors.

One is Asa Butterfield who I remember in the role of Bruno, a ten-year-old, son of a Nazi commandment, who has an unlikely series of conversations with a Jewish lad in a death camp.  For a time, at least, Bruno finds the kind of humanity his father probably never knew.  In Allan Loeb’s script for “The Space Between Us” based on Stewart Schill’s story, Butterfield performs in the role of Gardner Elliott, a sixteen-year-old who also finds a common humanity, bridging the aforementioned space when he follows up a flurry of emails to Tulsa (Britta Robertson).

Tulsa is a gamin, a tomboy as we used to call girls with tough personalities, but you couldn’t blame her.  Like Gardner, she is a fish-out-of-water, tossed around from foster home to foster home and trying to fit into her high school.  Gardner has the more challenging dilemma.  He is the first person born on Mars to an astronaut, Sarah (Janet Montgomery), who dies in childbirth.  Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) and B.D. Wong (Chen) cover up the bizarre death, pretending that the craft was destroyed with no survivors.  When Gardner heads for Earth for the first time in his sixteen years, he is searching not only for Tulsa but also for his father, whom he has never seen.

The bulk of the picture is on a chase.  Kendra (Carla Gugino), an astronaut who watched over Gardner in Mars, and Shepherd. who insists on keeping the secret of the woman’s death in childbirth, both running after Gardner.  Some laughs come from Gardner’s attempt to pick up the current slang and who initiates conversations with strangers with the question, “What’s your favorite thing about Earth?”   Gardner manages to stay ahead, exploiting the advantages of a motorcycle owned by Tulsa and a crop duster plane owned by one of Tulsa’s foster parents that looks like it was taken out of mothballs from the Wright Brothers’ era.

You may recall the similar film “The Man Who Fell to Earth” about a humanoid who goes to Earth to find water for his planet and uses his knowledge to found a successful tech company. As with the two youths in “The Space,” the 1976 movie from Nicolas Roeg finds the title man taking up with an unloved woman who teaches him a thing or two about life on our planet.

Asa Butterfield may have been fitted with light blue contact lenses, a distinguished feature—the color coming from a person born outside the Earth’s atmosphere.  Britt Robertson does a good job demonstrating a change in personality from an understandably defensive woman to one falling in love with a guy her age.  This is pretty much an interesting tale which because of its teen protagonists could make a hit with high-schoolers here, containing nothing that could alienate an older audience as well.  Breathtaking scenery is on display in stunning New Mexico vistas.

Rated PG-13.  120 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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