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The Space Between Us

Young hearts float gravity free in director Peter Chelsom's otherworldly romance, which blasts off for Mars and regrettably crashes and burns - from a narrative perspective - the moment the film re-enters Earth's atmosphere. Based on an original screenplay by Allan Loeb, The Space Between Us constructs one seemingly insurmountable obstacle to keep apart the teenage protagonists: his bodily organs cannot withstand Earth's atmosphere. It's heartbreak at its most literal. This countdown to premature death kindles a spark of dramatic tension, but Chelsom is in no hurry to tie up plot threads or clarify an unspoken bond between characters, which is glaringly obvious from the opening frames. Instead, the filmmaker stages a series of improbable and unabashedly gooey set pieces, which involve resourceful teenagers stealing cars and staring doe-eyed at each other to a radio-friendly soundtrack of James Bay, Crystal Fighters and Banners. Were it not for the appealing screen chemistry and inherent likability of actors Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson as the star-crossed lovers, all of that syrupy sentiment would be nauseating. Nevertheless, you'll need a sweet tooth to make it through two hours without gagging. Charismatic billionaire Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) is determined to plough some of his fortune into Genesis Space Technologies and the Magellan-61 mission to colonise Mars. The ground-breaking expedition to establish an outpost christened East Texas is led by plucky astronaut Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery). "Courage is fear that has said its prayers!" she tells a packed press conference. En route to the red planet, Sarah discovers she is pregnant and Nathaniel decides to conceal the revelation from NASA and the public. "East Texas runs on good faith, good PR," he reminds the team, including Genesis mission director Tom Chen (BD Wong) and media consultant Alice Myers (Lauren Myers). Sadly, Sarah dies during childbirth and her son, Gardner (Butterfield), is raised by scientists at East Texas. Sixteen years later, he is still a secret, with a surrogate mother - astronaut Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino) - and a robotic best friend called Centaur (voiced by Chelsom). The teenager's only connection to Earth is an online romance with a girl called Tulsa (Robertson), who doesn't realise that Gardner lives 140 million miles from her foster home in Colorado. Desperate to meet Tulsa and track down his biological father, Gardner hatches a daredevil plan to go to Earth. The Space Between Us shamelessly panders to a young audience, remaining tastefully chaste when it comes to consummating the couple's hormone-fuelled attraction beneath a twinkling desert sky. Butterfield has the showier role as the visitor from another world, who has never seen rain and learns courtship techniques by watching old movies. Robertson is a spunky, fast-talking foil and they gel pleasingly as co-stars go through the motions.