Somewhere in this 2 hour long mess of a sci-fi/romance/adventure story is a decent film but its lost in a poorly acted, terribly paced film that forgets to make us care about the characters along the way. The plot, complete with enough holes to rival Swiss cheese, defies logic in hilarious fashion from one scene to the next. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, the characters then try and justify some of these later in the film developing an incredible sense of self realisation that makes it even worse. Before I continue, I must say that some of this review will contain spoilers but its almost essential to do so to justify the low score.
The story follows Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery), a lead astronaut who leads an expedition to Mars for 4 years. Despite NASA picking up on a rare genetic disorder she carries, they completely missed the baby in her stomach and she boards the ship ready for Mars, pregnancy and all. Once at Mars, little Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) is born but Sarah dies giving birth. Cut forward 16 years (despite being told this mission only lasts 4 years) and our story starts.
Presumably the crew decided to stay on Mars to raise the, now teenage, Elliot but we’re never explicitly told this. Nor told exactly how he survived during all this time or how they fashioned clothes, milk etc. for him. Despite all this, Elliot now spends his free time video chatting with Kendra (Carla Gugino) from Earth in crystal clear transmissions that any Skype user would be envious of. Their awkward chats never seem to have the sort of flair and chemistry you would expect from two lead romantics. Most of this is due to us desperately trying to catch up after 16 years have passed. Just when you’re left wondering how Elliot will ever seen Kendra, the story blasts forward again.
20 minutes later and Elliot is on Earth, having escaped the clutches of the scientists that raised him to find Kendra to discover what happened to his Father. What ensues is a cat-and-mouse game between the scientists and Elliot. The story is messy and really poorly paced, not to mention hilariously awkward for the inevitable romantic beats between the 2 leads that have zero chemistry with one another. This was only accentuated further by cheesy dialogue (“I don’t even know how to kiss”, “I’ll show you”,) that induced bouts of eye rolling throughout.
Perhaps I’m being harsh here. As a 28 year old male, ‘The Space Between Us’ is clearly not designed for my demographic, nor my gender. The problem I have is that there is a good film somewhere in here but its muddled between too many plots thrown into the film and recommending this to even the youngest of teenagers this might be catered to would be a dis-service to good teen films.
It almost feels like three films crammed into one. It could have been a sci-fi about a boy growing up in space trying to communicate with a girl on Earth but finding his efforts thwarted by NASA who prevent him from being discovered. It could have been about a boy who grew up on Mars coming back to Earth on the run from scientists to find his Father. Or it could have been a simple romantic tragedy about two characters and how they could never be together because of the distance and no chance of Elliot ever surviving on Earth. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t do this and chooses to ignore any sort of characterisation or growth.
Overall, The Space Between Us is a frustrating mess that could have been so much more. It fails in every genre it tries to nail – it’s a terrible romance film, a horrific science fiction film and a poorly paced adventure film. Between hilarious bouts of nonsensical dialogue to reinforce the terrible plot, the only semi decent thing with ‘The Space Between Us’ is it did make me laugh on several occasions, wondering how this even made it onto film.