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A Million Miles Away is a standard biopic saved by Michael Peña
Acclaimed director Alejandra Márquez Abella collaborates with Michael Peña for her latest film, A Million Miles Away, a biopic of Jose Hernandez, the first migrant farmworker to travel to space. Abella pens the film’s screenplay with Bettina Gilois, and Hernán Jiménez which adapts based on Hernández’s memoir, Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut.
The film follows the standard biopic template, introducing us to a young Jose (Juanpi Monterrubio) traveling in the late 1960s with his family from Mexico to California. Early on, it’s established that José will fall into the family business of working in the fields. However, Jose has a knack for math, and his sympathetic teacher (Michelle Krusiec) urges his family to stay a while. When we see Jose graduating college, Pena assumes the role and guides the ship for the rest of the film.
Hernández didn’t learn English until he was 12 years old, and many of his peers were involved in gangs or skipped school. Despite these challenges, he became part of an exclusive team that worked on developing technology for the early detection of breast cancer by the time he was in his twenties. It took Hernández 11 attempts before he was finally selected to join NASA’s prestigious astronaut program and wear the iconic orange space suit.
The biopic featured in the film is captivating and thought-provoking. It is further enhanced by the routine performances of the supporting cast, which includes the talented Rosa Salazar in the role of Jose’s wife, Sarayu Blue as a co-astronaut, and Garret Dillahunt in the part of Jose’s superior. Together, they bring depth and authenticity to their characters, making the film a moving experience for the family.
However, the film has its faults. One thing I can see viewers having issues with the movie is Peña portraying Hernández for so long. While we spend time with Hernández and learn his story, a wiser choice would have been to have a more age-appropriate actor represent him for this stage of his life for maybe 20 minutes, and then Peña takes over. Additionally, Hernández is given a ton of plot armor, so outside of being a workaholic, we never see his flaws.
Nevertheless, as a one-time watch with the family, A Million Miles Away successfully encapsulates the key elements of a biopic in its concise two-hour duration, including training montages, cultural identity, tragedy, and clever one-liners.
Final Grade: B-
A Million Miles Away begins streaming today on Prime Video
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