A failed teenage romance

An attempt at capturing the thrill of young love has gone yawningly awry

There’s many, many a movie made about teenage romance. But rarely has a film used science-fiction as a background to relay diabetic sweetness. Well, now there is one. In The Space Between Us, writer Allan Loeb brings to the big screen a short story he co-wrote about a 16-year-old boy, born on Mars, who travels to Earth to be with the girl he loves.

Gardner Elliot (that really is his first name) played by Asa Butterfield is the product of an accident when the lead astronaut of a team stationed on Mars realises she skipped birth control. Cut to 16 years later and Gardner, born and brought up among scientists, yearns to know more about his mother and Planet Earth. There’s also another impetus, his lady love is on Earth, as is his father, who we don’t get to meet till the end. But, as all romance stories need conflict and tragedy to keep the lovers apart, Gardner’s organs will not survive our planet’s atmosphere. Defying all odds and with little caution for his life, our protagonist and finds a way to Earth, not before we get to see a really short sequence of him training to get fit. The Space Between Us very quickly sends Gardner to Earth, essentially turning the feature into a road trip film between the boy from Mars and the object of his affection, Earthling Tulsa (played by Britt Robertson).

We’ve seen a lot of romance in cinema, from the trashy to the experimental, and even truthful portrayals. But it still doesn’t give director Peter Chelsom the need to pull out every predictable trope in the book. Two misfits (one from Mars and another is a foster care child) take on the world together. They run from the police and scientists, who are making life on Mars possible but cannot track two teenagers. They steal cars and even a small aircraft — like they’re snatching candy from babies — to travel across the country. Everything about this film’s on the lam story is excruciatingly convenient.

As for the actual characters that make up the film, it would have been more rewarding to skip stereotypes. Gardner’s love interest is a child of rejection, untrusting of the world and angry at the cards dealt to her. Had her character been slightly more nuanced, it could have escaped being such a horrible cliché. For his part, Butterfield is hit-and-miss at times. When he’s not making us roll our eyes at his character’s constant wonder of discovery (Gardner seems to have seen a dog before but not a horse), he’s watching old films for tips on courtship and figuring out how to act around people on Earth. There’s also Gardner’s adoptive mother Kendra (Carla Gugino) and Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman), the founder of the company that sends the astronauts to Mars. But both characters are just auxiliary adults playing second fiddle to the teen protagonists.

The Space Between Us reaches for being a tear-jerker like The

Fault in our Stars with the ambitious plot of say, a Warm Bodies. But in the end, it simply falls short in all its endeavours.

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Printable version | Apr 3, 2020 3:34:20 AM |

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