Take a bit of The Martian, throw in E. T. The Extra Terrestrial, add a touch of Starman, sprinkle it with Romeo And Juliet and a bit of The Fault In Our Stars and you have the recipe for The Space Between Usa new sci-fi teen romance.

Deadline Review Badge Pete Hammond

The movie owes much to an engaging performance from Asa Butterfield (Hugo, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas) as teen-aged Gardner, who has grown up and lived his whole life on Mars. His mother, an astronaut, was part of a mission to the Red Planet when, to the surprise of NASA and just about everyone, was pregnant and gave birth to the boy but died in childbirth. Gardner grows up alone with the company of Kendra (Carla Gugino), who serves as sort of a mom surrogate, and also the robot Centaur, a wiseacre who keeps him straight. Once NASA learns of all this they decided to keep it quiet, but eventually Gardner gets to come to Earth and that’s when his big adventure really begins.

As I say in my video review above, all of this seems aimed at teen girls mostly, but it turns out to be a nifty family movie expertly directed by Peter Chelsom, who most recently did the quirkily marvelous Simon Pegg vehicle Hector And The Search For Happiness.

The appeal of this film for its target is what appears to be an almost impossible budding romance. It seems Gardner spent a lot of face time and Skyping with a teen girl down on Earth named Tulsa (Britt Robertson). They clearly have a connection and it’s a good one on a human level, as well as technical one (who knew you could Skype to Mars with relative ease?). Nevertheless, when she says she wants to meet him he makes up a story that because of a unique condition he can’t leave his Park Avenue apartment. But of course when he lands on Earth he takes off on his own to find her, as well as his father, a man who appears lovingly in a photo he carries of his mother.

Gardner and Tulsa traverse the land, hitting the road in search of dad, while Tulsa remains clueless about Gardner’s true origins. Chasing them down are Kendra and Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman), the Elon Musk-style billionaire who funded the Mars mission in the first place some 14 years earlier. Now he has to track down Gardner, who due to incompatibility with Earth’s gravity may see his days numbered if he is not sent back.

The movie, if you go with all of its sometimes implausible premise, is a sweet and nicely produced family entertainment that offers up a classic fish-out-of-water story. Butterfield is ideally cast in the lead and we root for him and Tulsa in their mission. Oldman, as usual, is right on the money as a guy with a dream of making Mars inhabitable if not for himself then at least for others. Gugino adds a welcome warm presence to the proceedings, and Robertson is feisty and game as Tulsa.

The screenplay comes from Allen Loeb, who most recently did another otherworldly tale, Collateral Damage, that critics lambasted — unfairly, if you ask me. He’s clearly a dreamer, and this one has those elements as well.

Of special note is Andrew Lockington’s superb orchestral score. Stewart Schill and Richard Barton Lewis (who also produced) contributed to the story. The film was originally at Relativity but moved on to STX Entertainment which releases it today.

Do you plan to see The Space Between Us? Let us know what you think.