You’ll be forgiven for assuming that this star-crossed romance is based on a popular Young Adult novel, but in fact it’s an original script from the mind of full-time cringe merchant Allan Loeb (Collateral Beauty). Even without the teen-baiting paperback to accompany it, this is a no-less cornball, fascinatingly confused and eventually quite terrible romp all by itself.
16-year-old Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) is the first human being ever born on Mars, where he resides in a settlement with a small handful of people. He chats online with a sassy fellow high-schooler, Tulsa (Britt Robertson), who lives in Colorado and dreams of escaping a life filled with foster homes and disappointing parental figures. With the help of fellow astronaut and maternal figure Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino), Gardner prepares his journey to Earth, where he hopes to meet Tulsa and find out what being a human is really all about.
The Space Between Us is a film of two distinct halves; the first, set only sporadically on Earth, is inoffensive and occasionally intriguing in the ethical dilemmas it poses. By the half-way point, however, there’s a major tonal shift as it basically mutates into the Nicholas Sparks film you probably thought you might be avoiding. It also has some of the most outrageously bad product placement you’re likely to see in a movie all year, with Volvo hood ornaments in perfect close-up and, of course, the inevitable Mars bar tie-in.
The second hour’s most egregious offences meanwhile include toe-curlingly bad dialogue, cheesy truisms, an unearned romance between two leads who don’t have any romantic chemistry whatsoever, and Gary Oldman hamming it up for the cheap seats, while B.D. Wong and Carla Gugino are the only ones involved to truly escape with their dignity in tact.
Things finally go truly off the rails in the closing 10-or-so minutes, with a procession of hilarious plot twists that contort the pic into so-bad-it’s-good territory for a few fleeting moments.
In fairness, the pic looks good visually and nobody gives an outright atrocious performance, but Robertson desperately needs a better agent who will stop getting her cast as a teenager despite being on the latter side of her 20s. The film’s real villain, though, is Loeb’s horrendously tone-deaf script, which wants to be a sci-fi adventure and a romance but will ultimately please fans of neither.
The Space Between Us is in cinemas now