In “The Space Between Us” Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) is a regular kid with the usual litany of teen problems. Slightly nerdy and a tad socially awkward, he passes the time texting with Tulsa (Britt Robertson), a pretty girl he’s never actually met. You see, Gardner is a normal teen in all respects except one—he lives on Mars.
Raised by scientists on the Red Planet after his astronaut mother died in childbirth Gardner lives in a settlement called East Texas founded by scientist Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman). As the only human ever born on Mars he’s alone, save for an R2-D2 clone called Centaur, astronaut/guardian Kendra (Carla Gugino) and a team of scientists. He longs for information about his mother so when the chance to return to Earth comes up on his sixteenth birthday he jumps at it, eager to track down Tulsa and find his biological father.
On Earth he marvels at the colour of the sky, the feel of the ocean but worries that he’ll be sent back to Mars before he has the chance to really live. He escapes, on a quest to find Tulsa and daddy, a man he never met. The boy who fell to Earth finds Tulsa and together they go off in search of papa with Shepherd and Kendra hot on their tails.
Is “The Space Between Us” a sci-fi film? Ish! Is it a teen adventure? Almost! Is it a doomed teen movie? Sorta! A romance? Not really! A fish out of water flick? Kinda! Is it a road trip? Maybe! It’s all those things and more wrapped up in an underwhelming Young Adult story.
At the centre of it all is Butterfield whose wide eyes give him a slightly otherworldly look, perfectly suited to play Tulsa’s favourite Martian. Robertson is spunky and even if everything that happens doesn’t really make sense, the two leads are appealing.
They stand in stark contrast to Oldman chews the scenery with unusual gusto. He over does it all the way, emoting as if acting was going to be declared illegal the next day and he’d never have a chance to do it again.
“The Space Between Us” a.k.a. “The Loneliest Boy On Mars” has some good moments but in its attempt to be all things—see paragraph four of this review—clutters up a story that would have been better served by streamlining the story and tone.