If you’re avoiding Fifty Shades Darker this weekend, and you’re wondering if this might be an option…
The Space Between Us tanked, so I was alone when I saw it, and though I have seen many bad movies under these very circumstances, for some reason, with this one, I desperately wanted to explain myself to the ticket-taker. I’m a film critic, I wanted to say. I HAVE to see this, because I refused to see “Rock Dog” and this is the garbage I endure in exchange. Please don’t judge me. But I didn’t say anything. Teenage ticket-takers don’t care about your reasons and they are made of judgy resentment. The usher checked on me every twenty minutes, as if to make sure I wasn’t doing anything weird alone in a theater, watching a movie about teenage lovers from space. Mostly I was just trying not to fall asleep.
Asa Butterfield stars as Gardner, a kid born on Mars because his dum-dum mother got herself pregnant and subsequently died in childbirth. The movie openly blames her—“Irresponsible!” shouts Gary Oldman when he learns of her unplanned pregnancy—and never once attempts to hold this unknown man accountable for his efforts in conceiving Gardner. So the takeaway from the opening minutes of the movie is that 1) in a future where the colonization of Mars is possible there is still no 100% reliable birth control, and 2) if you get pregnant ladies, it’s still 100% your fault. We’re off to a GREAT start.
Gardner grows up on Mars, NASA’s dirty little secret lest the knowledge that an astronaut had sex one last time before leaving Earth forever scandalize the public into acknowledging that women like sex, too. As played by Butterfield, Gardner is a wide-eyed ball of constant wonderment, like a human kitten that’s eight feet tall—Butterfield is a lanky dude—whose only friend is a robot because his only use for the internet is to video chat with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a teenaged Cool Girl who thinks Gardner lives in New York City.
First, her name is TULSA because she was abandoned there, which is the only reason you would ever name a living creature “Tulsa”, and even then, it still feels like a mean choice. Second, Robertson is in her mid-twenties, and though she is a lovely young woman, she can no longer pass as a teenager. She looks older than Butterfield, she acts older than Butterfield, and she and Butterfield completely fail to mesh and create anything resembling chemistry, so this “romantic movie” is just a black hole. Robertson had more chemistry with Scott Eastwood, and he’s basically just a bale of hay with legs. Even if you’re going for sweet, teeny first love romantic drama, you still need your leads to have actual romantic chemistry. But Tulsa looks like she would rather chastise Gardner for not doing his homework than make out with him. Which is appropriate because she’s like a tenth-year senior and he’s three.
So then these two vacuums of sexuality go on a road trip, fleeing Gardner’s minders because he’s about to die. You see, Mars’ lesser gravity has shaped Gardner’s bones and organs so he is being crushed under the weight of Earth gravity, and also his HEART IS TOO BIG to keep living, and the metaphor is so subtle the screen just manages not to light up in neon when the line is delivered. Ostensibly this road trip is to find Gardner’s father, as Gardner is the only person in the actual galaxy who realizes it takes two to tango and he’s like, Maybe I should meet my dad, thanks for not finding him for a decade and a half, ACTUAL ROCKET SCIENTISTS.
While travelling around the US with Tulsa, Gardner asks people what their “favorite thing about Earth is” and it’s meant to be more of Gardner’s kittenish wonder at simple sh*t he could have looked up at any time on the internet—he has the full internet on Mars and doesn’t use it except to talk to Tulsa, which is F*CKING WEIRD—but really it’s just a miracle no one punches him in the f*cking face. Tulsa, of course, finds all this endearing because she’s so cynical and Gardner is so naïve it’s supposed to be opposites attract, get it? DO YOU GET IT? SHE LOVES HIM BECAUSE HE’S NOT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. I was thinking this is the worst movie I’ve seen since Collateral Beauty and it turns out they were written by the same person (Allen Loeb). Of course they f*cking were.
Attached - Asa Butterfield promotes The Space Between Us on AOL Build last month.