What do you want to be when you grow up? That is a common question asked of young people in school. In the beginning, it usually is responded to with the standard answers: a policeman, a fireman, or a teacher. And for those children who have been exposed to it, an astronaut. For young José Hernández, that was his ambition from the start. Although, as the son of a hard-working migrant family, such dreams were just that: dreams. But in A Million Miles Away, thanks to the support of his loving family, a dedicated teacher and eventually his OWN family, José is able to persevere and reach for the stars.
This feel-good story is based on the book “Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut” by José Hernández and directed by award-winning filmmaker Alejandra Márquez Abella. As the film begins, we are introduced to future shuttle astronaut José Hernández as an intelligent and hardworking young man who works alongside his family wherever the harvest takes them. Which basically means the Hernández family is never in one place for too long. When the harvest is finished in one place, they load up and go to the next. At the same time, they are trying to ensure that their children are getting a proper education for as long as their present jobs allow – which isn’t long.
While José is the dutiful son, he has dreams of being more than a migrant worker. His astronaut ambitions are represented by an ear of corn with the leaves pulled back to resemble the exhaust of his pretend rocket. José takes it with him from place to place, flying it out the car window as they travel from job to job. Yet migrant farming is not an easy life, especially when you are an 8-year-old boy. It is when José is feeling particularly bitter about his lot in life that his father gives him his personal recipe for achieving what you want. This proves to be the mantra for José and of the film’s narrative. It is repeated as the film progresses.
Steps of the Recipe
1) You must know what you want – A Goal
2) Look where you are standing and see how far you still need to go to reach that goal.
3) Think of how you’re going to get there.
4) If you don’t know how, you have to learn.
5) When you think you’ve made it, you probably have to try even harder.
A Million Miles Away touches upon a number of themes, with the love of family, hard work, and tenacity high among them. Through the film, the adult José confronts a lack of respect from a number of sources. Despite those challenges, it is his willingness to do what must be done that reflects his father’s lesson and motivates him to not quit. This accounts for its strong feel-good vibe. This is a film destined to be rewatched fairly frequently, especially if you need a dose of positivity.
The film’s pacing runs at a steady beat. Perhaps the only time it possibly stutters is the segment that reveals how José’s own family grows with five children added to the Hernández clan. However, it does expand on the film’s focus on family and how important that support is. Only with his wife Adela’s support does he finally reach his goal to make it into NASA and beyond.
One of the real strong points in this film is the casting and the chemistry of the ensemble. This is important as the expanded family is the foundation in which A Million Miles Away is set. This is greatly represented with Michael Peña and Rosa Salazar as José and Adela Hernández. From the moment they meet in the fields and later at the car dealership Adela worked at, you could tell there is something between the two. (The dealership scene is priceless). This chemistry carries on into their married life and Adela’s steadfast belief that José will achieve his dreams.
This family emphasis is also supported by Julio Cesar Cedillo, and Veronica Falcón who play José’s parents, Bobby Soto who plays his cousin Beto and even his teacher Miss Young played by Michelle Krusie. Overall, the strong supporting cast does an excellent job of portraying the tight family circle that surrounds and supports José and Adela. This is brilliantly realized by director Alejandra Márquez Abella, who handles the film with the skill her reputation as an award-winning director suggests. This is her first English speaking film, and it should not be her last. A Million Miles Away allows all who watch this film a chance for themselves to touch the stars.
A Million Miles Away will be available on Prime Video on September 15, 2023.
Overall, the strong supporting cast does an excellent job of portraying the tight family circle that surrounds and supports José and Adela. This is brilliantly realized by director Alejandra Márquez Abella, who handles the film with the skill her reputation as an award-winning director suggests. This is her first English speaking film, and it should not be her last. A Million Miles Away allows all who watch this film a chance for themselves to touch the stars.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.