A Million Miles Away (2023)

A Million Miles Away (2023)

A biopic designed to be as inoffensive and feel-good as possible, helped along by strong lead performances



Mexico, United States of America
English, Spanish
Drama, History
Bobby Soto, Emma Fassler, Eric Johnson
122 min

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So paint-by-numbers that they play Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" after a meet-cute (not that I'm complaining).

What it's about

The true story of José M. Hernández, who worked through poverty and casual and systemic discrimination to become the first migrant farm worker to become an astronaut.

The take

A Million Miles Away sticks so closely to the Hollywood biopic template that it threatens to be less about José Hernández as a person with his own complexities and more about the idea of him as a one-size-fits-all inspirational figure. This isn't to say the film isn't effective when it really counts; Hernández is worth admiring not necessarily because of his ultimate success, but because how much he failed and got back up again. Director Alejandra Márquez Abella keeps the film's tone light and bouncy, flattening some of its more serious moments, but also helping make Hernández's long, hard road to space more of a process of discovery. It's easy, inspiring viewing that quietly tiptoes past harder questions about poverty and NASA's potentially discriminatory practices.

What stands out

The film itself may not do anything too special, but Michael Peña and especially Rosa Salazar are acting with all the commitment that a prestige drama would require. Peña stays impressively shy and quiet all throughout, which makes the moments where Hernández's emotion and frustration seep through the cracks all the more affecting. And Salazar—in a typically thankless role as "just" the protagonist's wife—feels every emotion so fully, so that each of Hernández's victories and failures also become Adela's. As much as these real people probably deserved more well-rounded (and therefore flawed) portrayals, Peña and Salazar still pay tribute to their hardships with respect and sincerity.

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