Martian Heart: 'The Space Between Us' Tells a Stellar Love Story (Featurette)

"The Space Between Us" movie poster
"The Space Between Us" (2017) features Asa Butterfield as a 16-year-old boy born on Mars who falls in love with someone on Earth (played by Britt Robertson). (Image credit: STX Entertainment)

Although the new movie "The Space Between Us" concerns a young boy on Mars, cast members and crew said everyone can relate to his dilemma as he pines for love. The movie opens in theaters Feb. 3.

Sixteen-year-old Gardner Elliot (played by Asa Butterfield) was born on Mars because his mother was pregnant when she and several other astronauts flew to the Red Planet. The mission didn't plan for pregnancy, and the mother never revealed Gardner's father before dying of complications during Gardner's birth at Mars. 

Gardner grows up in a small colony on Mars, but yearns for Earth after meeting a girl called Tulsa on the internet (played by Britt Robertson).

Gardner journeys to Earth to see Tulsa, but his heart, which developed in the lighter gravity of Mars, cannot take the strain of Earth. This leads to some difficult choices for Tulsa, Gardner and other people who care for him.

"What I loved about the story is it's very universal to me," director Peter Chelsom said in a new featurette about the movie. "Is it about Mars. Is it about America? No. They're just devices to tell that love story."

"Gardner is searching for connection," added producer Richard Barton Lewis. "He's trying to understand who he is and find out what it means to be human."

In the story, which begins in the near future (judging from the date on the mother's tombstone on Mars), the astronauts use a modified space shuttle to get to the Red Planet. Gardner grows up among the scientists and engineers, with little else for company except a friendly robot and an online connection with Tulsa.

"Tell me where you're really from," Tulsa says to Gardner online, from her room on Earth.

"Mars. I was born here," Gardner responds at his Red Planet bunk.

"Sometimes I feel I'm from a different planet, too," Tulsa says.

In the same video, Butterfield and his fellow actors noted the culture shock that Gardner feels when talking to Earthlings such as Tulsa, but added that Gardner's focus is resolute. "His whole world revolves around this idea of getting to Earth, finding his father and finding Tulsa," Butterfield added.

The film is produced by STX Entertainment.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: