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  • Jennifer Green

Review: "A Million Miles Away"

Benefitting from a well-structured script and understated directing and acting, this film molds an expectedly flattering underdog tale while resisting the fawning romanticism of some biopics.


Based on the subject's own autobiography, A Million Miles Away is obviously complimentary of its subject, cherry-picking, condensing, and glossing over life details. But it manages to avoid idealization or overt nostalgia.


For example, when young Hernández starts playing with a cob of corn, he fashions it into a rocket, so the corn represents a future built out of a past, not a romanticization of migrant work or a Mexican homestead.


The story briskly introduces its characters to get us to Hernández's adulthood, which is assembled into parts based on his father's "five ingredients for success." It wasn't a necessary structure, but -- much like the corn and a somewhat magical theme involving migrating butterflies -- it adds to the tale's tone and meaning.

Peña embodies the future astronaut as a regular guy in a performance built around the idea of humility. His slightly pudgy and soft demeanor contributes, though it would seem he should have gotten stronger and thinner during his years of training.


As his wife Adela, Salazar gives a memorably likable performance, and their relationship feels real in its tenderness. This telling wants to focus on how Hernández's unique success was built not just on his own tenacity but also on the sacrifices and support of those around him.


A recurring visual theme shows groups of extended family members gathering around individuals, in celebration or in sadness, into hugging circles. The act and repeated image convey more about the significance of family and community than any dialogue could.

 

Read the full review at Common Sense Media.

Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

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