Read This Before You Watch “The Space Between Us”

This week we’re watching “The Space Between Us” (2017), another teen romance, this one including some minor sci-fi elements. Whether this movie actually counts as science fiction is debatable, but I’ll leave that for you to decide. After the heavier social issues at the heart of last week’s film, this one might feel pretty light, but I think it still explores some interesting ideas about love and family. Despite its interplanetary scale, this movie focuses narrowly the more intimate issues of our personal identity, our closest relationships, and how we approach our own mortality.

After an overly-long opening backstory about how a boy came to be born on Mars and secretly spend his first 16 years there, “The Space Between Us” decides it wants to be a fairly typical romantic comedy with a search-for-your-origins subplot and a dash of dying-boy melodrama thrown in for good measure. Not surprisingly, this movie did not get overwhelmingly positive reviews. Some people liked it, but some thought it stunk. You will no doubt decide for yourself, but at the end of the day I found myself able to forgive its faults and enjoy its core narrative about a boy who falls to earth.

With any luck you’ll able to enjoy it too, but even if you have to hate-watch it, I hope you can agree that it gives us some interesting things to talk about. Besides, sometimes I think we learn more from movies and books that don’t quite work. The faults allow us to pick at the seams, pull apart the components, and figure out how it all fits together (or fails to do so).

Sixteen-year-old Gardner is your average nerdy boy who has been raised by scientist on a Martian space station. Since there are no other kids on Mars, he strikes up an online romance with the cute, spunky, and lonely earth girl Tulsa who is being raised by a drunken foster parent and counting the days until her emancipation. Tulsa wants to meet Gardner in person, but he’s been cagey about his situation, not revealing quite how far apart this long-distance relationship really places them.

But, frustrated with his boring life on Mars, feeling pressured by his virtual girlfriend to meet her in person, and harboring a lifelong desire to meet his earthbound father, Gardner decides to escape the red planet and brave the months-long journey to the home planet he’s never known. The only problem is that a boy raised on Mars won’t survive long under the oppressive gravity of Earth.

Ah, the things we do for love!

I won’t spoil any more of the delightful (or groan-worthy) surprises for you, but I really do hope you find some things to enjoy here.

Take a look at my discussion questions before you watch the movie this weekend. They’ll give you some things to focus your attention. I’m really curious to see what you guys think of this one.

Published by Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic

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