Friday, February 3, 2017


Opening in the Valley this weekend:

The Space Between Us­—The space in question is hundreds of millions of miles. It lies between Gardiner, the first boy ever born on Mars—he’s the fruit of a moment of poor judgment by an astronaut—and Tulsa, a foster kid on Earth with whom he’s struck up an online bond. Gardiner would like to come and visit, but his heart isn’t up to Earth’s gravity.

There must be some morbid romantic appeal in the idea of a love that your heart literally can’t stand. In 1993's Untamed Heart we saw Marisa Tomei fall for Christian Slater despite his delicate ticker, supposedly transplanted from a baboon (the working title was Baboon Heart, but perhaps that didn’t test so well).

Taking the idea to interplanetary levels seems extreme, but Asa Butterfield, who plays Gardiner, specializes in this sort of fragile-misfit part, and Britt Robertson, who plays Tulsa, isn’t without spunk. Gary Oldman is on hand as the space honcho, as is Carla Gugino as Gardiner’s surrogate Mom, and it’s good to see them, even in uninspired roles.

Directed by Peter Chelsom, the movie is sort of pretty to look at. It gets across a suggestion of the bountiful variety of Earth compared to the drab desert uniformity of Mars, and the gratitude we ought to feel for living here, and too rarely do.

But the dialogue is painfully terrible, and the plot gambits used to turn The Space Between Us into a road movie are clumsy and unconvincing. Throughout, Gardiner keeps asking people “What’s your favorite thing about Earth?” It’s not a bad question, but it’s doubtful that this movie would be anybody’s answer.

The Red Turtle—This animated feature is a Japanese-European co-production, and it looks it. It begins with ocean waves that look like the art of Hosukai. These tempestuous swells maroon a man, who looks like a character out of Tintin, on an island of bamboo forests and beaches crawling with deadpan little crabs.

The man has all he needs to survive on the island except companionship. He tries several time to escape by raft, but each attempt is mysteriously scuttled by some force he can’t see but suspects is a great red sea turtle he encounters.

After he attacks this creature when it comes ashore, the turtle changes into a beautiful woman. The man abandons his plans to leave the island, and the two of them settle into married life and have a child, who grows up to think about what might lie, as the song says, beyond the sea.

Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, this nearly wordless film couldn’t be much more beautiful visually. It has quietly magical atmosphere, but somehow it doesn’t quite add up to the masterpiece it seems to want to be. I liked a lot about it, but the moment where the story’s dream logic provides a dramatic payoff is missing.

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