This Space Between Us (1999)

Kelley Schei

Hardly a crisis worth making a whole film about.

This Space Between Us

Director: Matthew Leutwyler
Cast: Jeremy Sisto, Poppy Montgomery, Clara Bellar, Alex Kingston, Vincent Ventresca
Distributor: Anchor Bay
MPAA rating: Unrated
Studio: Fault Line Pictures
First date: 2000
US DVD Release Date: 2006-11-07

I wonder if Matthew Leutwyler is bitter about Garden State's commercial success. Garden State and This Space Between Us, (released five years earlier) both concern a 29-year-old who almost broke out in Hollywood but was undermined by a past trauma, and must now experience a breakthrough before he can move forward in life. And like Garden State, This Space Between Us relies on whether you care about an average guy's personal problems.

Both have a remarkably uneven approach to humor, with awkward attempts at sight gags and coarse dialogue, both have a supporting cast of quirky, cutesy characters, and both pivot on the "big moment" when the emotionally frozen guy finally allows the girl of his dreams (though, in this case, she's dead) to thaw him out. This Space Between Us is more generic and tedious than Garden State. Jeremy Sisto (from HBO's Six Feet Under) is really the only reason This Space Between Us is bearable. He's not as annoying as Zach Braff; in fact he's cute, low-key, and likeable.

Sisto plays small-time director Alex, whose perfect wife suddenly dies right on the cusp of his success. Since then he's done nothing, and when he finally decides to pitch his new screenplay, he ends up plunging a Mont Blanc pen through a cranky producer's hand. It's a violent moment that doesn't fit in with the rest of the film, and it's not funny. He's justly demoted in the Hollywood chain, given access only to projects like directing a Punky Brewster reunion. He's insulted at the suggestion and so disillusioned with his agent that he hits the road for some talky soul-searching that takes up the rest of the film.

For someone still in his 20s with a questionable work ethic, doesn't having a gig at directing TV sound pretty good? Doesn't everyone have to start somewhere? Doesn't building a career take discipline? It's hard to sympathize with all his pouting, and it hardly seems like a crisis worth making a whole film about. It's this kind of emotional indulgence that dampened my interest in the independent film boom of the '90s. This Space Between Us is one of those well-intended but unsubstantial films born of the good idea that a lower-budget film could give directors a chance to focus on stories with fully formed characters and intelligent dialogue. Its representation of young middle class people and the way that they speak is boring and familiar, and its emotional themes are trite.

The film also has some muddy ideas about artists; specifically, the necessity for artists to face themselves honestly before they can make good work. A conversation with his friend at the Museum of Modern Art, in which she tries to get him to appreciate contemporary installation art (giving a bad misreading of a Felix-Gonzalez Torres piece, by the way), seems to implicate his unresolved grief in his inability to make good films, though I'm not sure how. There are a lot of conversations like this one -- broad strokes of philosophy that are there to create atmosphere more than to leave us with anything specific to think about. The characters he meets are also general sketches: soulful French artist Zoe, bitter and marriage-desparate Arden, flaky socialite Paternelle, and pothead high school buddy Jesse (we need a moratorium on pot-head sidekicks). I get who they are supposed to be, just not why I'm supposed to care.

This Space Between Us aims pretty low, and still misses the mark. We've seen the road trip through one's past to find out what it all means much more successfully in movies like Broken Flowers. If you like Jeremy Sisto, it could be mildly entertaining, otherwise it’s not really worth the time.

DVD features include Commentary by writer / director Matthew Leutwyler and actor Erik Palladino, Outtakes.






The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".


Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.


Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.


Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.


On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.