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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Space Between Us is a sci-fi romance starring Asa Butterfield as a teen born on Mars and Britt Robertson as the girl he hopes to meet once he finally travels to Earth. Language is pretty infrequent ("ass," "damn," etc.), and violence is limited to authorities pursuing the teen couple and a crash that causes an explosion (but no deaths). Expect some drinking (a parental figure is shown drunk and surrounded by beer bottles) and a whole lot of romantic tension that culminates in passionate kissing and one love scene (bare shoulders and backs are briefly visible). With themes of courage and teamwork, the movie celebrates the need for connection and friendship. But it's likely to appeal a bit more to teens interested in love stories than anyone in the market for a sci-fi thriller.
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What's the story?
THE SPACE BETWEEN US tells the story of the first human born on Mars, a boy named Gardner (Asa Butterfield) who was born and raised in a NASA space station. His mother, an astronaut, had no idea she was pregnant when she led the team of scientists to the Red Planet; she died during childbirth. Sixteen years later, there are more scientists on Mars, but Gardner's only friend his age is someone he met online: an Earth high schooler named Tulsa (Britt Robertson). Desperate to find his father and meet Tulsa, Gardner ignores medical advice that his body won't last in Earth's atmosphere and sets out to find Tulsa. They then head out on a road trip to find the man Gardner assumes is his father.
Is it any good?
This sweet but not particularly out-of-this-world teen romance stars a talented ensemble, but it ultimately lacks the necessary sparks. Although younger audiences may not notice, adults will realize the age discrepancy between the two main characters (almost seven years); Robertson and Butterfield are fine actors, but the filmmakers should cast someone as Tulsa who didn't look old enough to be Butterfield's concerned older sister -- or chosen a male lead who didn't look quite so young. By the time they start their inevitable kissing, it's downright uncomfortable to watch.
That major flaw aside, the story is fairly predictable once audiences figure out what's a red herring and what's reality. Hot on the couple's heels is the Mars mission's former billionaire visionary, Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman). His keen interest in Gardner's health signals an overarching sense of guilt at unknowingly sending a pregnant woman to space, and Goldman plays Shepherd with a constant sense of concern and frenzy. Carla Gugino, an expert at maternal roles, co-stars as Kendra, the scientist who acted as Gardner's primary guardian on Mars. She's always ready with a comforting word to the curious, confused boy. Bottom line? This is no Titanic, but The Space Between Us should appeal to middle-schoolers looking for an easy-to-follow story about teens who find friendship and love from across the solar system.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Space Between Us and the enduring popularity of "space" movies. How does this film differ from other movies about humans on other planets?
Discuss the romance in the movie. Is it what you were expecting? Can you think of other sci-fi romances?
Gardner and Tulsa's friendship is established online. Their situation isn't average, of course, but what are some guidelines for safe online interactions with others?
- In theaters: February 3, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: May 23, 2017
- Cast: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman
- Director: Peter Chelsom
- Studio: STX Entertainment
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief sensuality and language
- Last updated: June 6, 2021
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