Available on Prime Video
“A Million Miles Away” is an inspiring true story based on based on a guy who went from being a migrant farm worker to a NASA astronaut. This was an arduous journey, full of set-backs and blockades. He was told once: “Tenacity is a superpower”. He proved that never giving up on a dream can make the impossible a reality. Even when you are aiming for the stars.
In the early 1960’s, there was a migrant family from Mexico who worked in the California farms. They had a few children and a large extended family that would all travel together. The young son, named José (played by Juanpi Monterrubio), worked with the family picking produce. But he was more at home in school, where he excelled in math. His teacher, Miss Young (played by Michelle Krusiec) saw that José could learn quite a lot more if he did not travel as much with the family.
Miss Young convinced the young boy’s parents that he should stay in her school. He could live with relatives, while the others traveled from town to town so they could work. His father Salvador (played by Julio Cesar Cedillo) did not like that idea, but the boy’s mother Julia (played by Veronica Falcón) — she saw this as way for José to succeed in the world.
When he graduated from college, José Hernández (played by Michael Peña) began a career as an engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Being one of the few people of color working at the facility, José was not given much respect or any real responsibilities. But he overcame the doubts of his fellow engineers. He proved that he was a smart and as capable as any of them. And he was the only one who would bring in the tastiest enchiladas…
Growing up, José was very close to this cousin Beto (played by Bobby Soto). He went to visit Beto one day working in the fields. He happened to see a young woman named Adela (played by Rosa Salazar). She was also from a migrant farming family, and she lived close to José. He went on to court Adelia, and her strict family held her close. But these two shared some secrets. Adelia wanted to one day to own and run a restaurant. José wanted to become an astronaut. It was not a laughing matter to him.
José and Adelia were married, and soon had several children. His job at the Laboratory was going really well. They even gave him a chance to go abroad to Russia — to oversee an important weapon dismantling operation. But José has begun sending annual letters to NASA to the Astronaut Candidate Program. He was rejected year after year, but he still never gave up. After Adelia learned of this, she encouraged him even more.
Adelia told him to go to Houston personally and deliver the application letter. There he met Fred Sturckow (played by Garret Dillahunt), who was in charge of the Program. Why would José Hernández be a valid candidate for being an astronaut? Well, he tells Sturckow that his early life was spent on the move. He and his family were migrants, going from town to town — so a little of that experience would be useful. José would still be a migrant, but now he would take his travels to space…
José gets selected for the Astronaut Candidate Program. He and Adelia move the family, all five children, to Houston. This is a very tough program, with everything designed to weed out anyone without the skill or the ability to succeed. Sturckow thinks that José is OK, but maybe not real astronaut material. José meets another astronaut named Kalpana Chawla (played by Sarayu Blue). She had been on a Space Shuttle mission once already. She is originally from India. She tells José that his contribution would be important for the space agency.
Kalpana Chawla gets selected for the next Shuttle mission as a specialist. But the return of the space capsule is met with tragedy. The Columbia broke apart on reentry, and all crew members were lost. The space missions are shut down for two years. The chance to go into space might elude José Hernández, and his dream from years ago might be shattered. But he remembers the words that Chawla has told him: “Tenacity is a superpower”. After two years pass, José is picked for the returning space mission on the Shuttle.
“A Million Miles Away” is a heartwarming story of following your wildest dreams. A person who grew up with his family as a migrant farm worker would become an astronaut. It shows that being true to your dreams, and with the help of a loving family, anything is possible.
Michael Peña in the lead role gives a very solid performance. Rosa Salazar, who plays his wife, also has a good chemistry with her co-star. The story shows a very positive view of the Mexican culture, and how family is the most important thing for them. There are plenty of family celebrations, and giant group hugs, to go around. This movie does not break any new ground, but it treads very tenderly on familiar ideas.
“A Million Miles Away” is a voyage of discovery for a young boy who has his eyes set on the stars. When he is grown up, his story and his life become an example of tenacity.
Available on Prime Video
A Million Miles Away
Directed by: Alejandra Márquez Abella
Written by: Bettina Gilois, Hernán Jiménez,Alejandra Márquez Abella
Starring: Michael Peña, Rosa Salazar, Julio Cesar Cedillo
Cinematography: Dariela Ludlow
Editing: Hervé Schneid
Score by: Camilo Lara
Produced by: Amazon Studios
Release date: September 15, 2023 (Prime Video)
Length: 121 minutes
MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements and language