An endearing love blossoms between Britt Robertson and Asa Butterfield's teen characters in the sci-fi drama The Space Between Us (out Feb. 3). But this isn't your typical love story about two angsty adolescents trying to work things out. Following a young boy Gardner (Butterfield) who's desperately seeking to travel to earth after a life of isolation since his birth on Mars, the story explores much deeper themes than young romance. Robertson and Butterfield tell me about how the experience makes them reflect on life, their identity, everyday things they take for granted — and hopefully, how the film will cause fans to do the same.
As soon as I sit down with the duo, I explain that people have described the movie as a "Fault in Our Stars in outer space." Butterfield deflects the notion, and Robertson agrees with him. "I would argue against that, actually," says the 19-year-old. Not because he's not fond of the film, but because of how different they are. "This film is less about the love story and more about these characters growing up and learning who they are... really going on a journey and helping each other through that journey." A prominent piece of the puzzle is each of their characters finding their place in the world.
"Gardner is finding out where he belongs and his past... meeting his father," says Butterfield. "I wouldn’t say he’s coming to earth to fall in love, he’s coming to earth to be human." Before Gardner makes his way to earth for the first time as a teenager, he forms a bond via video chat with foster child Tulsa (Robertson), who Butterfield describes as "the only real friend he's ever made." In her own way, Tulsa, without the sense of having real roots, is excluded from the world too.
Both actors can relate to feeling isolated in their real lives and the effect it's had on their adulthood. "We lose that routine of being able to have dinner with your parents, or see friends, or connect in that way because you’re so hyper focused on work the next day or your people aren’t there," says Robertson. But there are advantages. "You get to know yourself a lot better than you would normally. Find out who you like, find out what makes you happy," the 26-year-old explains.
Like his character, Butterfield is forced to learn who he is at an accelerated pace because of his lifestyle. "You come up with things to entertain yourself. Self-sufficiency. I matured faster, I found," he says. Coming to terms with relationships — romantic or not — is another way he identifies with Gardner's journey. "[Acting] gives you the opportunity to meet lots of different people and make lots of connections. But a lot of those connections are either superficial or so fleeting," he says. "The important ones are there no matter where you are."
I ask the two if the film puts relationship problems they've faced on earth into perspective. A hundred miles would break up a relationship of mine, so I can't imagine 250 million. But to them, it's more than accessibility to a loved one — it's everything. "It makes you appreciate all of the things we feel so entitled to here," says Robertson. "You get to go home and sleep in your own bed tonight, you get to have your dogs there, and friends you can see tomorrow." Butterfield chimes in saying, "You’re so wrapped up in your own things... To you, your problems are a lot bigger than everyone else’s."
Hug your dog extra tight today and be thankful for the curveballs life throws, because such things are luxuries that are under-appreciated far too often.