In The Space Between Us, no one can hear you squirm

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Space Between Us
Opens February 3

Portraying earnestness on the big screen is dicey. Do it wrong and you’ll get mocked by jaded audiences. Director Sam Raimi pulled it off in the Spider-Man saga, even with the added difficulty of operating within a subgenre prone to smart-alecky banter.

Which brings us to The Space Between Us.

The Space Between Us fails at earnestness, badly. It tries to bring in the crowds that flocked to teenage melodramas like The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, but it doesn’t have any of the edge. Not only that, it hits so many different notes (sci-fi flick! chase movie! medical drama! family mystery!), it never feels cohesive.

It starts preposterously: unbeknownst to NASA, the female commander of a mission to Mars becomes pregnant and delivers the child on the Red Planet. The astronaut dies giving birth (of course) and the kid is left in the care of a rotating group of scientists. The head of the project (Gary Oldman at his hammiest) decides it would be dangerous for the boy to leave Mars, as his physiology wouldn’t do well in Earth’s atmosphere and gravity.

16 years later, Gardner (Asa Butterfield, Hugo) has grown restless. His desire to travel to Earth and experience normal life becomes an obsession after he meets a pretty girl on the internet (Britt Robertson of Tomorrowland). Gardner manages to get to our planet, but it becomes evident the environment doesn’t suit him. Drama and feelings and stuff ensue.

The tone of the film fluctuates wildly at the expense of character consistency. Gardner goes from withdrawn to sulky to fish-out-of-water goofy to mopey, depending on the circumstances. A good film would justify such a character arc. The Space Between Us just makes it scenery. Asa Butterfield is a very likeable young actor but he can’t prevent the movie from floundering.

While not a great film, The Space Between Us is an entertaining failure. No trope is left unturned and you can have fun guessing what cliché comes next.

But I must confess, I kept underestimating the ever-rising cheese levels in this thing.