The USA is called “the land of opportunity,” and Alexandra Marquez Abella’s latest movie on Amazon Prime, A Million Miles Away, is a testament to the same. Michael Pena stars as Jose M. Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant to the US who has dreamed of going to space ever since he was a child. Based on the life story of real-life astronaut Jose Hernandez, the movie explores the hardships, struggles, and journey a boy from a small town had to make to one day have his dreams fulfilled. Here’s a detailed review of A Million Miles Away so that you can decide if this is something you’d like to watch the next time you want inspiration.
What’s the Movie About?
In the 1960s, young Jose Hernande worked the fields with his parents when he was not at school so that they could support the family. One day, he watches the launch of Apollo 11, and from then on, he becomes deeply inspired by the promises that space holds and starts dreaming about watching the planet Earth from space. To help their son fulfill his aspirations, his parents give up their dreams of buying a house in Michoacan. Thus begins Jose’s journey to become an engineer, and he finds a job at Liverton, but because of his complexion and name, he’s immediately assumed to be a janitor by the receptionist and not deserving of attention.
Meanwhile, Jose falls in love with Adela and marries her, while his secret passion for applying to NASA continues, although all his applications are rejected. His only support system throughout is his cousin Beto, who fills Jose with courage and hope that if someone can achieve the impossible by traveling to space, who better than an immigrant farmworker? One day at work, Jose finds out about a discrepancy in the jet fuel, and from then on, his importance in the office goes up exponentially. As Jose and Adela keep expanding their family with more children taking up residence, Jose continues honing himself but always falls short of NASA’s expectations. One day, Adela finds out about the rejected letters to NASA, and she decides to believe in her husband. She devotes their savings to giving Jose the swimming, flight training, and Russian lessons that an astronaut requires, and on his 12th attempt, she asks him to deliver the letter personally instead of just mailing it.
During a celebration at their home, Adela receives a letter from NASA informing her that Jose has been accepted. The newest NASA employee hands the keys to his favorite car to Beto as Jose’s family moves to a new place in the city. However, Jose hadn’t forgotten his wife’s dreams either; he spotted a leasable building and refurbished it as the restaurant that Adela had always wanted, while he kept up his astronaut training. Meanwhile, Jose has to rush back home upon learning that his cousin Beto met with an accident and was killed, and when his niece asks him why he wants to go to space, all Jose can say is that he loves Beto very much. This is yet another hurdle that life throws before Jose on his path to achieving his dreams, but he soldiers on, thanks to the love and support of his wife, his kids, and his parents, who stand by him like unwavering rocks. The training is exhausting, and the tasks test Jose’s limits to the extreme, but he also finds courage in another migrant, none other than Kalpana Chawla, a famous astronaut of Indian origin. Kalpana informs Jose that she’ll be going up to space, and the excited Jose watches the mission from his wife’s restaurant. However, the 2003 mission goes historically awry and crashes, making Jose question his life choices. He finds his family by his side, however, which makes him hold on a bit longer.
Finally, in 2008, Jose is called into the HQ and is offered a position to go to space, a dream in the making for 30 years. Jose seeks his wife’s permission, and she makes him swear that he will be coming back, healthy and hearty, to his wife, kids, and parents. He walks into his wife’s restaurant in the blue NASA astronaut suit and leaves for his launch station in the famous orange spacesuit. The day of the launch draws near, and every day, Adela prays a little more for the safe return of the father of her children. Before the launch, Jose’s parents get his primary teacher, Miss Young, to come meet him, as the first person who believed in young Jose’s ability to achieve his dreams. On the day of the launch, Jose’s entire family sits at the station, but Adela waits in the room he’d been allotted and only opens the curtains to watch the rocket leave for space. What happens then? Does Jose return home safely? The beautiful movie based on real events is a must-watch for every space enthusiast and every person from a small town who was once told that their dreams don’t matter or that they’ll never be able to achieve the goals they have.
Michael Pena excels in his role as an immigrant Mexican in a big city in the USA and embodies the struggles everyone who’s not Caucasian feels working among a predominantly white population. However, his major emphasis is on his character and the dreams he holds, and every time he’s rejected from NASA, his frustration feels real and raw. The story borrows a significant portion from the real-life incidents of Jose Hernandez, but it manages to play out like a movie instead of leaning toward a documentary style of filming. If you were to go into the theater without knowing its original source, you’d almost think this is truly one of those stories where a small-town boy dares to dream big. Interestingly, that’d been Jose’s entire life: an immigrant Mexican who dared to move out of the grape fields and dared to go to space.
Rosa Salazar, in the role of Jose’s wife, is much more than just a prop in the movie; and she’s given real emotions, fears, and dreams. The movie doesn’t present her as an all-sacrificing model wife, and she’s seen arguing with Jose, but in the end, she chooses to support her husband’s dreams. Family forms a massive theme of the movie, with Jose’s own multiple children, as well as his extended family, coming together to offer their love and support as the first man in their family tries to head to the stars.
With a taut script and a solid grasp of the events, director Alejandra Marquez Abella makes sure that the movie doesn’t become too technical or too dragging and manages to find a satisfying middle ground. Jose is given enough room to grow in the movie, which gets a much-deserved hurrah from the audience the moment he tells off the judgmental receptionist politely. The runtime is 120 minutes, and although it could do with a bit shorter length, it seems that almost every section was important to the story, so we can’t exactly point out faults. Overall, this is a movie that you should definitely go for, and let us know how you feel!