I’m in an interracial marriage.  One of the things that struck my wife was how different the world looked and treated us once we were married.  Suddenly she experienced and saw prejudice, where before our stories were joined, she had the option to not see it, much less be the object of it.  The coming together of two very stories and the journey they go on is the theme of The Space Between.

Melissa Leo (Conviction, Homicide:  Life on the Streets) plays Montine McLeod, a hard-drinking flight attendant carrying around a lot of pain and existing on the edge of burnout.  A ten year old Pakistani-American boy, Omar Hassan (newcomer, Anthony Keyvan) tests as a genius and is offered a full scholarship to a special school in Los Angeles and has to fly from his New York City home to there … on the morning of September 11th, 2001.  When the plane they are traveling on is grounded in Texas, Montine chooses to drive him cross country to return home.

The movie sets itself on the strong shoulders of Melissa Leo.  She has a lot of material to work with, between the tragedies she carries around with her, the drinking, her dissatisfaction with her job, and her own mother dying.  Anthony Keyvan isn’t asked to do too much and his performance isn’t especially nuanced.  Then again, his role doesn’t exactly allow for much other than for him to be an oddly distant good boy who stands in for everyone to look at as “The Other.”  Their road trip is fairly standard, as is the thawing of their relationship, but it’s as if writer/director Travis Fine didn’t trust his audience to not get his message.  So the emotional resonance the movie strives to evoke plays out almost as manipulation.

“See, we’re stuck together whether we like it or not.” –Montine

Reminiscent of the movie Crash, the movie points to two things: reality is relationships and we live lives of overlapping stories. If this movie is about anything, it is about how prejudice keeps us from seeing the people around us as they are.  At some point, we, as a people, “lost our frame of reference.” Our lost frame of reference, our fallen-ness, has led to broken relationships and a downward spiral of anger, fear, eventuating in death.  As Billy explains “some people think that God created the earth and everything that happens after that is just chance.  Others would say that things happen because of man’s free will.  Sometimes we make good choices, sometimes we make bad choices.  But I think there’s some mystery to it cause there’s some things that happen in this world that we just can’t fully understand.”

“Sometimes things happen in life that are painful to deal with.” –Montine

We live in a multi-cultural world, whether we want to call it a melting pot, tossed salad, or whatever new paradigm we choose to live under. We don’t often get the humiliation of going through life always being treated as a suspect, guilty until proven innocent. We don’t often get the humiliation of casual victimization. We don’t often get how our reactions to those constant humiliations fuel our anger and further hatred leading to tragic consequences or can even lead to a binding moment of shared commonality.  A journey of shared pain.

When people no longer tell or listen to others’ stories, they become locked in their provincial mindset, cultural ghettos of their own making. In fact, when people become so removed from another’s story, they become compelled to destroy those (other’s) stories for they suggest other ways of living. Their stories become a threat.  What we can’t afford to do is let one story keep us from participating in other stories.

“Some of the most important moments in your life happen when you’re not even looking.” –Montine

The Space Between is a quiet character study of great depth and treads in the waters of powerful emotions.  Though it’s not flawless and sometimes a little heavy handed;  its soundtrack alone is like being beat with a message stick.  Even if that wasn’t the case, the movie would likely find some resistance if only because the material is so on point.

It’s difficult for people who live within one story to relate to the lives of those in another and it requires work to be a part of one another’s story.  For some, the events of September 11th are still too fresh to think about.  Those of us not in New York may never fully understand the trauma and nightmare of those events and don’t have to live with those scars or memories.  But anyone who has had their sense of safety and security shattered can relate, as we’re all thrown together by pain and tragedy.