LONDON: Every now and then, a heartwarming biopic comes along to remind us that movies, when they’re at their best, can simply make us feel good. And so it is with Prime Video’s “A Million Miles Away,” the thoroughly pleasant and lovely story of Jose Hernandez, the first Mexican-American astronaut. Adapted from his memoir, “Reaching for the Stars,” the movie features Michael Pena as Hernandez and Rosa Salazar as his wife Adela. Director Alejandra Marquez Abella takes us deep into Hernandez’s childhood, charting his early life as a migrant farm worker whose parents sacrificed everything to stay in California, choosing to give their children a settled life — and education — instead of following the nomadic patterns of Mexican harvest workers in 1970s US.
Hernandez graduates from university, gets a job as an engineer, meets the love of his life, and starts a family. But Adela sees his burning childhood desire to explore space going unrealized and encourages her husband to apply to NASA, trading their family’s stability for his chance to join the space program.
“A Million Miles Away” has a pretty standard message at its heart — try hard, be persistent, support those you love, be prepared to try even harder — but manages to avoid crossing into schmaltzy Hallmark-esque cliche thanks to compelling performances from its two charismatic leads. Pena and Salazar are utterly convincing as a pair of soulmates for whom the dreams of one are the dreams of both. Sure, the story beats are predictable, and the jeopardy feels a little contrived (wouldn’t be much of a movie if he never makes it), but there’s a real heartfelt backbone to “A Million Miles Away” — not to mention some steel, too, with issues of workplace racism and familial sacrifice all touched upon to varying degrees.
But it’s a nice, warm, fuzzy movie that gives you something — and someone — to root for. And sometimes, that’s all an audience needs.