This film doesn't really need an in-depth review, but I felt like giving it one anyways. I think the worst films can sometimes be the best teachers. SPACE is a fascinating case study of low budget independent filmmaking in that it suffers not for its budget limitations, but instead for its storytelling, characters, and craft.
SPACE is about a deep space mission to begin the colonization process of Ceres, a potentially habitable non-Earth Earth. Why Ceres? Well, as our leading female Lara Jean Sullivan, playing Dr. Ada here, dramatically shouts at no one in particular, "stop pretending we didn't f the Earth!" Things eventually go awry out in space, and survival becomes a short term concern for the astronauts while remaining iffy for the rest of humanity.
SPACE never quite gets off the ground, with its wild tonal swings and wonky dialogue derailing large chunks of nothing. No, seriously. This film has two settings: wondering why it hasn't done something yet, and then wondering why oh why did they do it like that.
It does have a certain upstart quality going for it - the miniscule budget clearly isn't a creative choice but a natural logistical limitation - and as such is easy to root for, but hard to get on board with. Nothing ever really clicks. There's moments where it gets loud and shaky - urgent commands getting shouted over flashing red alarms - where you just hope something, anything important will happen. At which point either it doesn't, and things become dull again, or it does, and immediately disappoints you in a way that makes you regret cheering for it in the first place. It's like being a proud, loving parent of the little league kid who keeps running the bases the wrong direction. It's a tough gig. And it wears us out long before its equally baffling, maddening, and deeply bizarre ending. And it's not even unsettling in the good way where you feel like the ground has shifted beneath your feet from a moving and interesting cinematic experience, but moreso like you've just seen a photograph of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle and you can't help but keep thinking about all the ways it could have been solved.
Look, I get it. It's a low budget indie. But its most significant problems are not problems of budget, or production design, or resources. They're problems of storytelling, direction, performance. A few million dollars thrown at this script would not improve it in any meaningful way.
There's scenes of the characters together on the smallest possible set, cramped in next to each other in ways that neither lend themselves to dynamic blocking nor fully embrace the inherent claustrophobia of being on (apparently) the tiniest space ship in history. The camerawork, even on-board the ship, is non-existent, due to the narrative limitations of this being a found footage film. But ultimately the film is lacking a hook, a central mystery, and even a reason to keep watching. It has zero narrative urgency and not in an artsy European way. It feels like a student in front of the class rambling through a presentation, just hoping to drag things out enough to meet their time requirement. Director Screenwriter Monte Light seems to be kicking the can down the road, padding the runtime with any filler he can find.
In fact, for nearly 30 minutes of screen time (!) the film becomes the dullest Zoom work meeting you've ever been to in your life. This is not an exaggeration. Four characters simultaneously occupy a real-time split screen as they yell, cry, plead, and shout expositionary nonsense while all trying to out-act each other. It feels lazy, uninspired, and only serves to remind us of the many exciting events in this film that we're never allowed to see. The Astronauts speak urgently about explosions and sequences that we're never shown, and the film begins to feel like we're listening to the radio play by play of a baseball game we're forced to imagine.
It seems like such a basic concept but if your movie puts a bunch of Astronauts on a space ship, sends them deep into space, and then their space ship gets dramatically destroyed OFF-SCREEN...you're really stretching your audience's patience. Especially when you follow that up with a Four Person split screen of our heroes divided into separate locations, but being asked to look into the camera in close-up and sell the very narrative events that we as an audience were just forbidden from viewing. Even with A-list talent this seems like a big ask of your actors, and for a cast that struggles to psychologically convince us they are in fact in Outer Space, it's not doing them any favors.
I'd say the actors are outmatched by the material but that's giving the material too much credit. Putting the whole movie on Sullivan's shoulders is a tough choice, and one that never quite pays off, with her performance being the least convincing and the most relied upon. Many times does Light's script and direction ask her to do the emotional heavy lifting of the storytelling. It never once works.
There's a masturbation scene after Dr. Ada says out loud to no one in a room alone -
"I wanted to have your baby."
She proceeds to unzip her flight suit and have some finger blasting fun, all in an unbroken shot that never cuts during her prolonged self-pleasure. This sends an already teetering high school production into full on farce, a shift into the comically and cosmically absurd.
It feels like the filmmakers are auditioning, if not begging, to be featured on an episode of Mystery Science 3000.
BUT THEN - in the very next scene the movie pivots right back to deadly serious discussions of mathematical calculations and trajectories and data and so on. The whiplash gets more and more exhausting as the film careens from flawed to fubar and back again.
By the end, you're rooting for the fastest possible conclusion.
Afterwards, you just might need a little space.
Light's debut is uneven and uninspired at its very best moments, while being downright incompetent, incomprehensible, and clinically insane at its worst. For any upcoming director making a feature film debut you'd hope for a spark or a sequence or a storytelling moment that could indicate a reservoir of potential that can be built upon with some added experience. Sadly, there are no such things to be found here, even way out deep in the far reaches of...
Review by austinTXdengb from the Internet Movie Database.