The Space Between Us bears faint echoes of other outer-space sagas but carves its own niche because its hero is a teenage boy. Asa Butterfield, whom we’ve gotten to know in such films as Enders Game and Hugo, gives a sincere performance as a boy who has been raised among American astronauts on the planet Mars. All he wants is to experience life on earth. He even has a long-distance relationship with a girl he’s been messaging—without telling her who or where he is.
In other words, in spite of its setting and spectacular visions of Earth from the skies above, The Space Between Us is essentially a coming-of-age story. It will probably play best with adolescents and tweens.
What makes it work for me, aside from the superior production design and visual effects, is Asa Butterfield as the boy and Gary Oldman as the mastermind behind this all-important Mars mission. In the opening scene, Oldman is commanding the stage at a press conference and he is (of course) completely believable. That credibility is crucial in a film that has so many fantastical elements.
I had a harder time believing Britt Robertson’s underwritten character as The Girl, who’s something of a malcontent …and frankly, I didn’t buy her as a high-school kid. (She’s 26.) But I did like Carla Gugino as the lone woman in the Mars colony who’s been a surrogate mother to Butterfield.
The Space Between Us is properly rated PG-13, which makes perfect sense for the audience it’s targeting. It’s a sweet, innocuous film nicely handled by director Peter Chelsom.