February blasts off with ‘The Space Between Us’

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The Space Between Us (2017)

Directed by Peter Chelsom

Emotions are like the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere—you might not realize they’re there until you try to deny their existence. That’s what happens when you get swept up in “The Space Between Us,” the teenage rom-com with a ridiculous premise and a somehow just as ridiculous execution. It’s only when you let down your defenses (“The space physics of this movie are ridiculous,” “That’s a really convenient plot device, smh”) that you start to find yourself happily engaged in the cute story.

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Unplanned pregnancies are never discovered at a convenient time. But when you’re on a planned four-year mission to research Mars, the stakes are even higher. Sixteen years after his mom died in childbirth, the baby, Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield), is still living on Mars, surrounded by visiting astronauts and scientists. Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman), the creator of the Genesis Project that sent the crew to the red planet, thinks it’s too dangerous to bring him home to Earth. Plus, it would be a public relations nightmare for his still-new company. But Gardner has been speaking via satellite connection to a high school girl in Colorado, named Tulsa (Britt Robertson), though she doesn’t know his background. His blossoming crush, coupled with his growing desire to find the dad he’s never met, leads to Gardner’s first visit to Earth—a trip that’s at once glorious and dangerous.

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As a space movie, “The Space Between Us” is pretty unbelievable and unrealistic. It’s like its more mature counterpart from late last year, “Passengers.” I won’t get into the ludicrous examples, but astronomical research wasn’t a priority. No matter, it has other tasks at hand. The casting of Asa Butterfield was perhaps the best decision it made. The lanky 19-year-old brings a kooky personality to Gardner, and it spreads throughout the film. Gardner, not having been properly socialized on Mars, only knows science, and what he’s seen in the old movies the astronauts have brought along with them to the space colony. So he’s a little old-fashioned and straight-forward. It leads to some laughs and some adorably touching moments between him and his hard-on-the-outside crush, Tulsa. Britt Robertson (“Tomorrowland”) gives Tulsa a typical tough-girl persona, but with a bit of a backstory to match the façade. Butterfield is at his best in his scenes with her—she gives his weirdness some context and purpose.

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But it’s not just the characters…the whole film takes on this quirky vibe. The unexpected music choices usually fit right in. The premise is also rich with opportunities for cheesy romantic puns, and “The Space Between Us” (the title itself being one) capitalizes every chance it gets. I hate that I loved it, but there’s no denying it grew on me. Don’t count this one out.

6.5/10

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