THE SPACE BETWEEN US. Empty and pointless science fiction

Why are we usually drawn to melodramas? Why do we root for the couple in love, facing adversities on their path?

Dawid Konieczka

21 November 2023

THE SPACE BETWEEN US. Empty and pointless science fiction

The simplest answer is, of course, the desire for catharsis. It pushes us towards more love stories, whether they are sophisticated, multi-layered tales, or tearful stories full of pathos. The creators of The Space Between Us are well aware of this, so they made their film in accordance with the rules of the genre. However, they dressed the melodramatic story in a sci-fi setting, generating interest from fans of both genres (including myself). Unfortunately, this is only a facade, behind which lies an exceptionally mundane, banal story.

The Space Between Us suffers from the same affliction as the much more known Passengers. They both stimulate an appetite for something more than just a light, undemanding movie. Nevertheless, Morten Tyldum’s film, despite a generally flawed script, had more interesting moments with the potential for a deeper psychological analysis. Peter Chelsom’s film only pretends, especially in the first few minutes, that it has something more to offer than a syrupy story about teenage love. This story is embellished with an interplanetary character. Gardner (Asa Butterfield) is the first human born on Mars, which is inconvenient for NASA, who tries to keep it a secret. Gardner initiates an online (!) friendship with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a rebellious teenager. The problem is that she lives on Earth, and Gardner might not survive in its conditions.

The Space Between Us Britt Robertson Asa Butterfield

Describing such an unusual relationship comes surprisingly easily, aided by the creators of The Space Between Us. Initially, their film touches on several interesting ethical and philosophical issues but abandons them at the speed of light. The problem also lies in the fact that Chelsom does not see the dramatic potential of the story, even such a simple one. If the focus were on the protagonist, his determination to leave the Red Planet, his struggle with his own weaknesses, and the control of the Space Agency, we might have had a decent drama. But not this time—Gardner casually travels to Earth, finds Tulsa, and together they start searching for the boy’s father, known only from one photograph. NASA employees, with a cursed scientist (Gary Oldman) and a caring astronaut (Carla Gugino), are hot on their heels. The rest of the plot follows the well-known, beaten path.

The Space Between Us Asa Butterfield Carla Gugino

The film is filled with clichés, cardboard characters, and beautiful views emphasizing the ubiquitous romantic-heroic aura. Essentially, this last aesthetic element comes in handy in the only decently outlined thread in The Space Between Us. The director seems to tell us that our world is full of wonders, and even in its smallest elements, something extraordinary can be seen. We look at the stars and dream of space flights, colonizing other planets, while what is truly exceptional surrounds us. We just stopped noticing it. Chelsom, through his character, marvels at the world, human possibilities, and humanity itself. This message allows us to detach to some extent from the sugary plot and let our thoughts flow.

The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us slipped through American cinemas largely unnoticed, crushed by critics and bringing significant financial losses. Perhaps the audience has had enough of romantic stories about teenage lovers, where we know the “plot twists” after the first fifteen minutes. Not even the currently popular science fiction backdrop, treated exceptionally superficially, will help. Perhaps we need to kill this love.

Dawid Konieczka

Dawid Konieczka

In the cinema, he primarily looks for creativity, ambiguity and authentic emotions, watching practically everything that falls into his hands.

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