By Diana Lee,
She hates her life on Earth. But for him, it’s all he’s ever wished for.
16-year-old Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) is no typical teenager. His mother died giving birth to him, he’s never met his father, and his best friend is a robot. Now, he spends his afternoons fiddling with computers and endlessly re-watching Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire” — all on the planet Mars. When he’s not occupying himself with either of these things, he’s talking to his internet friend on Earth, Tulsa (Britt Robertson).
Tulsa is a wild teenage misfit from Colorado who feels betrayed by the world. She hates everyone, bounces from foster home to foster home and rides a motorcycle wearing sunglasses instead of a helmet. But of course, she somehow also knows how to write songs and play the piano.
Put the two together and we have our cheesy, supernatural teen romance movie. “The Space Between Us,” directed by Peter Chelsom, revolves around this pair of literal star-crossed lovers: an alien boy and an alienated girl. It has proved itself worthy of joining our lovely collection of films featuring vampires, werewolves and zombies. Isn’t it about time we added a romantic “E.T.” anyway?
When we are first introduced to Gardner, we are also introduced to the fact that it is 2034. And Gardner, having been stuck inside a space dome on Mars for the last 16 years, is bored, curious, and a little weird.
Although he should not be leaving his little dome, the audience needs its show, so after a complicated surgery and a 7 month flight, he finds himself on Earth. His main interests are (in order of priority) one, finding his dad, and two, meeting Tulsa. However, he runs into a little problem: different planet, same dome. He is still confined.
With no surprise, Gardner escapes and finds Tulsa, and together they journey through the country to find Gardner’s father. The movie’s focus is mainly here, where they run from authorities and steal cars and play pianos displayed in Costco. Like a futuristic Bonnie and Clyde, they live and love dangerously.
The plot from here is easily predictable. Now comes the criticism.
“The Space Between Us” is possibly the most awkward teen romance film ever released. From sleeping outdoors naked to kissing in zero gravity atmosphere, the only thoughts that went through my mind while watching these love-struck teenagers were “when does this kissing scene end?” and “this is giving me anxiety.” And to add on, the characters portrayed in this film are derivative ones you will meet in any other teen drama (i.e. Tulsa can be found in many episodes of “The Fosters”). To be frank, it is just terribly cliché.
There are, however, a couple of things to be praised. Despite the many uncomfortable kiss scenes and boring screenplay, Butterfield really plays out his character to the greatest possible.
Gardner’s awkwardness, frustration and desperation reach out to the audience and are, at times, a little tear-jerking. In addition, the cinematography when it comes to nature is breathtaking; it is almost as if you were exploring Earth’s natural wonders through film. The starlit skies, the golden beaches, the windy mountains — the audience sees our planet’s beauty and the value of life through the eyes of a Martian.
Still, this was not enough to pull the movie out of commonplace. Watching “The Space Between Us” is like watching something you have already seen before. It is predictable and does not require your full attention, but still somewhat enjoyable.
In the end, the film can go two ways: you’ll love it or you’ll hate it. There’s no in between.