The Space Between Us
Gary Oldman deserves better than this lazy teen sci-fi flick, starring Asa Butterfield
Houston, we have a problem. Teenage romantic drama meets sci-fi in The Space Between Us, and the YA side wins out in an effort that will have scant appeal beyond the hormonally unbalanced younger set. Directed by Peter Chelsom, it sees a child born on NASA's first Martian colonisation project. The biological challenges the boy will face are enumerated in TMI about gravity and anatomy, which basically boils down to He Can Never Go To Earth Or He Will Die. Plus, the surprise pregnancy / death in childbirth of the mission commander is terribly embarrassing for the space programme and the child's existence is kept top secret.
At 16, young Gardner has become Asa Butterfield of the startling blue eyes (there's a clue to the mystery of his paternity right there), a brainy, naive but rebellious boy 'raised by scientists in a bubble', whose unhappy acting-out takes such a drastic turn that the decision is made to fulfil his yearning and let him come 'home'.
This is something of a relief since the cheapskate Martian compound looks like a toy model and the only characters there with dialogue are Gardner, his botanist nanny Kendra (Carla Gugino) and a crappy robot. On Earth his physical condition is life-threatening but he runs away to meet the abrasive, tearaway teen (Britt Robertson) with whom he has secretly been Skyping – or whatever it is that allowed them to have real-time chats despite being 250 million miles apart. A la Starman, he is baffled and delighted by Earth's wonders (the ocean, the sky, hamburgers), although it's unbelievable none of the astronauts took home entertainment to Mars – except, preposterously, Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire, just for the 'falling to Earth' metaphors – so that the kid doesn't know what a horse is.
A lazy script drags out juvenile road trip escapades and young lurve with failing health, while 'astromum' and the reclusive, emotionally troubled, retired head of the Mars programme (Gary Oldman) pursue the runaways across the US. More credulous members of the film's pubescent audience may well weep at the histrionics. Their elders will cry because Gary the Great deserves better than this and should have a serious conversation with his agent.
General release from Fri 10 Feb.