A Million Miles Away REVIEW – Shoots For The Stars
September 15, 2023
Alejandra Marquez Abella’s film, A Million Miles Away, is a touching testament to how far one person can go in life. Based on the true story of Jose Hernandez, a former migrant worker who spent decades trying to become an astronaut, Abella’s film isn’t necessarily a “rags to riches” story, so much as it is a portrayal of how one can achieve his or her dreams through hard work, dedication, and a bit of stubbornness.
The film starts with a young Jose Hernandez (Juan Pablo Moterrubio) in his boyhood. As a 7-year-old migrant worker, Hernandez is forced to mature quickly in the grape fields of California. He and his family appear destined for this unforgiving line of work, but he carries dreams of becoming an astronaut into his adult years. An older Hernandez (Michael Pena) attempts to join the US Space Program while combating prejudice at his job as an engineer. Though faced with many pessimists and naysayers, Hernandez continues to follow his ambition, no matter who or what stands in his way.
For its subject matter, A Million Miles Away is compelling and easy to follow. We experience the rigors of working odd hours in a grape field, as well as the weight of constant rejection. Hernandez must also contend with prejudice and low expectations from his peers as a Latino, which he overcomes with his knowledge of engineering. Upon entering the US Space Program, he must also endure the physical and mental demands of training, which cause many candidates to drop out.
Michael Pena delivers a wonderful performance as Jose Hernandez. He exhibits quite the range from a 20-year-old college graduate to a 40-year-old engineer, and we feel for his character at every stage. His co-star, Rosa Salazar, also delivers an incredible performance as Hernandez’s wife, Adela. She’s supportive of her husband but also exhibits bouts of frustration as he becomes increasingly devoted to joining the Space Program.
Together, both Pena and Salazar find time to deliver lighthearted moments as a couple trying to make their marriage, and their careers, work. Adela finds time to laugh at Jose’s stubborn choices, and Jose finds time to smile as Adela supports his character’s ambitions.
A Million Miles Away has moments of motivational sayings and montages, which is to be expected with such a film. The film takes a creative approach by breaking the story down into beats with five inspirational quotes from Hernandez’s father. This helps prepare audiences for what’s to come in Hernandez’s journey.
As a film involving engineering and rocket science, it doesn’t get overly technical or heavy with scientific jargon. Moments like this come briefly, and Pena performs well enough to hold our attention through these episodes.
Moreover, A Million Miles Away effectively delivers a compelling story that spans decades. Starting in the 1960s, the film takes us through the 1980s and into the 2000s. Viewers from these decades will recognize the clothing and pop songs that defined the era. Thankfully, the film doesn’t focus too much on these aspects. Instead, it focuses on Jose’s maturation from boyhood to adulthood. We grow with Jose, and we hope for things to turn out well for him.
As a true story of a very recent astronaut, Alejandra Marquez Abella’s film will prove appealing to all ages and backgrounds. Jose Hernandez came from humble beginnings and went on to become a larger-than-life figure in recent history. Anyone with big dreams will find inspiration from this film and hopefully pursue their own dreams, even if it takes them to space with Hernandez.
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A Million Miles Away delivers a wonderful story about a migrant farmer turned astronaut. People of all ages will understand and appreciate the trials Jose Hernandez goes through, and Michael Pena delivers a wonderful portrayal of a real-life figure.
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