The idea of space travel feels so attainable as a child. A Million Miles Away is more than just a title for this reason.
Space feels like a few steps away in youth, but naivety in a kid is endless. As adults, the idea of being an astronaut is laughable.
So when Adela, Jose’s wife (Rosa Salazar), laughs in the face of her future husband as he says, “I want to be an astronaut,” the moment is relatable.
But José M. Hernández (Michael Pena) is not just an average American kid with dreams of being a spaceman. Hernández was a migrant worker as a kid who rose from the depths of California to become a world-famous astronaut.
And this captivating true-life retelling of his story is one of the most inspiring films in recent years.
The movie stars Michael Pena as Hernandez, and as the film begins, we see him growing up as a child and picking grapes with other immigrants in the fields of California. Like his cousin Beto, he can barely stay awake in class due to long days of migrant working and traveling to find jobs.
His father, Salvador Hernandez (Julio Cesar Cedillo), is the dad every child dreams of having. He is intentional, present, and has an outstanding work ethic. So much so that he teaches his son five steps to persevere as an employee. And the principles are a roadmap that Hernandez carries with him long into adulthood.
The sacrifices of immigrants
Hernandez’s teacher, Miss Young (Michelle Krusiec), sees his potential and becomes increasingly concerned about his education. This inspires her to speak with his parents about staying in one place so their kids, especially the bright boy Jose, have a chance to blossom.
After a massive struggle to find fieldwork, his father concedes and decides true sacrifice might give his children a chance not to be farmers.
Sacrifice is a common theme throughout A Million Miles Away. More specifically, what are we willing to suffer for to achieve a dream? Jose Hernandez’s father puts his plans aside for his kids’ future, and much later in the story, Adela puts her restaurant on hold to bet on her husband’s future. All this in hopes of achieving something that seems impossible. And it must be said: It’s incredibly inspirational.
There isn’t anything new here as far as biopics are concerned. It follows a familiar structure that many have seen before. But, what elevates the standard approach is the casting and character writing.
In A Million Miles Away, there are some genuine character moments, like the interactions between Jose and Salvador. Salvador, who has been through a lot, gives a heartfelt and stern response when Jose expresses that life is becoming too much. He advises Jose, “Then get stronger.” It’s neither judgemental nor an attempt to call him weak. It’s a parent acknowledging he can be better.
The other actors in the film are also outstanding, but Rosa Salazar’s portrayal of Adela is incredibly captivating. Her performance brings a sense of warmth to the movie, similar to David Harbour’s in Gran Turismo. Salazar’s ability to convey a wide range of emotions through her eyes is truly impressive.
Michael Pena delivers another standout performance in A Million Miles Away, showcasing his ability to be a leading man. As a performer, Pena is great in everything, so it’s no surprise he could rise to the challenge of playing an Astronaut.
This astronaut’s story is inspiring, especially given the current hostility towards immigrants. A Million Miles Away showcases the fantastic opportunities available to those who risk journeying to a new place that offers a path to success. Few things are more powerful than the story of immigrants raising a future astronaut.
Nothing is out of reach
The film’s emotional finish will profoundly touch audiences as the third act unfolds. Although not overtly sorrowful, the climactic finale delivers a powerful punch to the heartstrings, evoking many tears.
Simply put, viewers might want to hug a spaceman by the time the credits roll.
A Million Miles Away might follow a familiar structure in biopics, but an excellent story, a remarkable cast, and great writing catapult it.
There have been attempts to make inspiring films this year to various results. Air was a great film that did this for entrepreneurs. But this reviewer must admit, A Million Miles Away is arguably better than that movie (our apologies to Ben Affleck).
A new generation is coming into the fold, and A Million Miles Away gives this reviewer hope that they will see this film and know that nothing is out of reach.
A Million Miles Away is now streaming on Prime Video.