The Space Between Us, with Asa Butterfield, Gary Oldman, Britt Robertson and Carla Gugino, directed by Peter Chelsom.
CONSIDER the complications when an astronaut is found to be pregnant on a nine-month journey to the Red Planet, and how a human baby would gestate in microgravity, and the problems that this might cause.
On landing on Mars the mother, Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery), dies in childbirth, and the baby, Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) grows up to be an inquisitive and highly intelligent 16-year-old.
Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) is the entrepreneur whose vision began the colonisation of Mars, but after Sarah dies he becomes a recluse and withdraws from the project. However, before he does he decides that the world does not need to know about the birth of the child, and Sarah’s death is rather attributed to a leaking spacesuit. The general public is never told about Gardner.
Gardner makes friends with a street-smart orphan named Tulsa over the internet, explaining that he cannot meet her because he is in New York with a serious illness, and confined to bed. Aside from this contact, Gardner leads a particularly solitary life, having had physical contact with only 14 people at the New East Texas Mars facility.
Gardner’s most pressing question remains to be answered: who was his father? In order to solve the puzzle he petitions to travel to Earth, but the mission doctors are opposed to this as they realise Gardner’s skeleton will not be able to support him under the force of Earth’s gravity.
Nevertheless, Gardner is insistent and finally the doctors agree to perform an operation to insert carbon nanotubes around his bones to enable the journey of almost a year to take place, and Gardner arrives on Earth to be once again caged in a secret facility, exchanging one form of prison for another.
He escapes to meet up with Tulsa, and the pair set out in an attempt to find Gardner’s father.
A complication in Gardner’s physiology means that he can no longer remain on Earth. Shepherd and an astronaut who has treated Gardner as a son, Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino) set out to find him before it is too late.
Although the story has a sci-fi undertone, it is more of a romantic drama. Yet it manages to ask a number of questions about humans planning to travel to Mars. Being born in outer space would certainly affect the development of strong bones, necessary to withstand the pressure exerted by Earth’s gravity.
One of the errors in the movie is when Gardner communicates with Tulsa, the messages seem to be in real-time. However, even at the speed of light messages from or to the Red Planet will take anywhere between four minutes at their closest point to 24 minutes at their furthest.