A Million Miles Away Review – A Heartwarming and Humble Biopic

By Romey Norton
Published: September 15, 2023 (Last updated: May 6, 2024)
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A Million Miles Away Review
A Million Miles Away (Credit - Amazon Prime Video)
3.5

Summary

From working the fields to flying into space – the remarkable and inspiring true story of José M. Hernandez is the feel-good family film of the year.

A boy from a family of migrant farm workers watches the moon landing in 1969 and then dreams of becoming an astronaut. A Million Miles Away is the story depicting the life of a man who risked everything to pursue his lifelong dream of traveling to space, and while at times the film feels it plays safe, it’s still awe-inspiring.

The screenplay is based on Hernández’s memoir, Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut, and what I think the film has done exceptionally well is make this story understandable to all audiences.

It’s not over-dramatic, over-played, or explicit in its content and is suitable for all viewers. 

José M. Hernandez was born in Mexico. While working in the field, he co-developed the first digital mammography imaging system. He persevered to become a crew member on the Space Shuttle mission STS-128. Amazing? I think so, too.

Director and co-writer Alejandra Márquez Abella’s portrayal of José Hernández is heartwarming and humble. Michael Peña, who plays Hernandez, gives a compelling performance. He’s a fantastic actor who I think is massively underrated. His charisma melts on screen, making him delightfully easy to watch.

The storyline follows familiar chronological biopic beats as we watch Jose grow up, graduate, and chase his dreams, making it easy to follow and understand. Themes include hard work, sacrifice, perseverance, and self-confidence.

With subtle political undertones and hints of comedy, this film has a gentle balance, enough to make you think but not feel overwhelmed. However, I thought the film ran too long, and there were sections drawn out for storytelling purposes that didn’t need to be in there. 

However, it’s beautifully shot, and the relationships between Hernández, his cousin, and his wife are emotional and intense—there are some honest and touching moments to look out for throughout.

It’s a heartwarming family film about a young boy who dreams about going to space. It doesn’t have the intensity and drama of other films, such as The Martian, Interstellar, or Gravity, but this one is based on an actual memoir, and life is sometimes complex in different ways.

This is the perfect family night-in movie with a runtime of 2 hours and 2 minutes. It’s undoubtedly a highlight of the year.

Is the movie a true story?

The film is inspired by the book Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut.

The book was released in 2012 and is a memoir by José Hernández that details his life and journey that led him to becoming an astronaut. The film stays close to its source, following Jose from his early years of farm work to graduating from Franklin High School in Stockton.

A teacher at his school would convince his parents to stop moving around the country, helping Jose to enter consistent education, a decision that probably shaped his future.

José went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of the Pacific two years later. He would achieve a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering while studying at the University of California.

He dreamed of becoming an astronaut, so he applied to NASA, hoping to find a place in their training program. However, the application was unsuccessful. However, this did not stop Jose, who applied again and again and again.

It took him twelve attempts before he would become successful, and on August 28, 2009. Jose would fly to the stars. While in orbit, Jose would tweet updates, making him the first person to use Spanish in space.

The first tweet read:

“El primer dia de nuestra semana de ensayo simulando nuestra primer semana en el espacio! First day of simulating our first week in space!”

RELATED: A Million Miles Away Ending Explained

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