Sometimes movies try to shoehorn in a real world disaster as a way to play out a drama. The Space Between falls into this category by using a backdrop of 9/11 to add the veneer of a road trip of forgiveness and respect to a personal journey. Good acting raises a slightly wonky premise but it may be a worthwhile watch for disaster drama viewers.
The disasters faced
9/11 itself, an alcoholic air hostess, racial kneejerk reactions and toilets with locks on.
Montine is an air hostess whose had a rough few years. Her husband has left her. Her mum is dying and she feels emotionally blackmailed by her brother in the situation. When her plane is grounded on 9/11, she has just had to chaperone young Omar on his flight out from New York to LA. Omar has been put on the flight to keep him safe from his father Maliq’s rough job and taut religious background. Maliq runs two jobs. One as a taxi driver – the other working in the restaurant on top of the World Trade Centre (its implied its Windows of the World).
Assuming that Maliq is dead, Omar begs Montine to take him back to New York to find his dad and Montine, despite breaking every protocol for her job going, agrees. The two then embark of a bus and later car trip back to New York. The two will learn more about each other, Omar will ask Montine lots of probing questions and she will be increasingly uncomfortable but also attached to Omar at the same time. When her mum then passes mid journey, they have to take a detour to her brother Will to sort out family issues and try to be less of alcoholic.
When the duo eventually arrive back at New York, expecting to find Maliq, they aren’t really greeted with the world they wanted to find.
Why is it worth watching?
Melissa Leo and Anthony Keyvan play their roles exceptionally well. They manage to elevate the script and premise above its initial standards. The issues with the film come from the lopsided way the film prioritises issues.
All the promotion and drama of the press, artwork and bios place the 9/11 scenario front and centre. Really, this film is about Montine’s self discovery of her purpose in life and finding new motivation. It just has to take 9/11 and Omar’s cry for help for her to snap into life again. Omar is relegated to a judging know-it-all who asks a lot of questions and gives ‘off camera stares’ for sadness. Really, his whole journey should be the real front and centre. Instead after the first 20 minutes, he is pretty much a passenger in the story until the final few scenes.
This sat awkwardly with me. In a movie designed to preach about acceptance, equality and so on, the story doesn’t practice what it preaches. It means well but comes off a bit clunky in its execution.
The film also plays with a big reveal that is not a big reveal at all. Omar says early on he spoke to Maliq on the phone and he is waiting for him and Montine assumes all is ok. The film plays this out with some of the biggest winks to camera to say ‘LOOK I’M FORESHADOWING’ in key moments. It is as the film wants you to realise that Montine is literally the last person to work it out. This makes the final scenes of emotional drama quite hollow and weird as when we have the big reveal that Maliq is indeed assumed dead, Montine goes nuts. We already knew. It also meant all of her snips and snipes at Omar feel more callous. Maybe I’m just reading too much into it but it left an unsavoury taste in my mouth throughout the full runtime.
Lastly, the film ends a bit abruptly but its final scene has a great monologue. It feels like the whole film was written for that monologue to be put into film – but they worked backwards from it. It sells a great message about love, loss and keeping going despite the inner pain. I just wished the movie had given Omar more of a platform to do this in his own way.
Whilst there are only a few effects shots of random people in dust walking through debris (made into weird scene transitions, may I add, that confused me a bit), I did like the way how actual news footage was interweaved into the movie. This helps you chronicle the timeline of events in the movie alongside the 9/11 event itself early on.
We largely only deal with Montine – the cold hardened lady who doesn’t love life anymore – and Omar. Omar is interesting as he is at a counterbalance of religion, education, poverty and a sheltered life. He is, in many ways, a very pure soul. That’s why the initial set up of pure soul child with raging alcoholic anti-mother figure feels like it could provide interesting results. It doesn’t quite pull through but it does show that you can learn from each others views and values.
Just because I don’t have a penis, it doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s under a hood.Montine beating down a car salesman
Three memorable moments
- The final scene has a beautiful monologue about love and loss which is the best bit of the movie.
- The initial airport grounding chaos scenes are interesting from a ‘moment in history’ perspective.
- Ordering a burger for a boy that won’t be eating meat anytime soon.
The obligatory weird moment
The Space Between doesn’t really have a weird moment but Sam, Will’s daughter, is laughable as the gothic teen bitch. It doesn’t really work and feels a bit awkward. There is also a fascinating drunk Montine moment where she says ‘it won’t be long before people forget the date’. It made me think of other big dates in history and whether 9/11 will ever be forgotten as a specific date in American culture. 100 years from now, will those numbers mean the same thing?
The drinking game
Everytime Montine called Omar ‘kid’. Apparently this is what rough diamonds with hearts of gold will always call a child in a movie. Terms of endearment be damned.
As you may tell, I have very mixed feelings about The Space Between. The opening 15 minutes and closing 10 perhaps are 9/11 centric. All the middle is a woman pulling her arse out of a midlife slump. The Space Between has some lofty ideas and ideals but muddies them in the delivery. An interesting addition to the disaster movie genre but there are better drama centric disaster movies out there.
Rating: 2.5 / 5 – OK
If you enjoyed The Space Between then you may like…
- Diverted – Subtle drama about the town of Gander who hosted grounded planes in 9/11.
- Fearless – Drama about how someone post accident feels utterly invincible and has a new outlook on life.
- Aftershock – Japanese drama about a family of four split up in a massive earthquake and each presume each other are dead. This follows their lives as they rebuild without knowing eachother.
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