Film Analysis: ‘A Million Miles Away’ Artfully Narrates the Ascension of an Improbable Astronaut

by Sophia Chen
A Million Miles Away biopic

“A Million Miles Away” is an uplifting narrative about striving for the seemingly impossible; it chronicles the incredible life of a young man who transitions from being a migrant farmworker to a NASA astronaut.

The film commences in the agricultural expanses of Michoacan, Mexico, where José Hernández gazes at the heavens with awe. The story culminates two hours later with him orbiting Earth at a distance of 200 miles, aboard the International Space Station.

His cousin poses a rhetorical question: “Who is more suited to explore the unknown than a migrant—a person familiar with stepping into the unfamiliar?”

While biographical films often risk overstating their protagonists’ accomplishments, “A Million Miles Away” remains grounded. Much of this is owed to Michael Peña, who portrays Hernández, and Rosa Salazar, who plays his wife. Their performances maintain a sense of realism, reminding viewers that astronauts also have mundane responsibilities, like taking out the garbage.

Based on Hernández’s own memoir, the film unfolds linearly, highlighting key figures who aided his journey, including educators, family members, and parents. Despite multiple rejections from NASA—each letter of which he keeps—the support from his community never wanes.

The path to Hernández’s eventual position as a mission specialist comes at great personal cost. His parents give up their nomadic lives, his wife postpones her entrepreneurial dreams, and Hernández himself forgoes witnessing the birth of a child due to his relentless preparation. On his first day at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, he is even mistaken for custodial staff.

Rather than simply glorifying Hernández’s achievements, “A Million Miles Away” thoughtfully delves into issues such as racism, cultural assimilation, deferred aspirations, and familial dedication. Amidst the plethora of superhero movies, the film asserts that “perseverance is a superpower.”

In a broader cultural context, the film resonates with another biopic released the same year—”Flamin’ Hot,” which explores the life of a Mexican American janitor who invents the popular snack, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The two stories converge when a bowl of Doritos appears on screen in “A Million Miles Away.”

Under the deft direction of Alejandra Márquez Abella, the film offers elegant cinematic moments. For instance, a box filled with administrative papers smoothly transitions into a box of crops. However, there are instances where symbolism—like a Monarch butterfly in space—feels forced.

Engaging scenes include Hernández’s efforts to conform to the NASA archetype, such as exchanging his Impala for a more suburban vehicle, or opting for sandwiches over enchiladas. A poignant, dialogue-free scene stands out: Hernández driving through the gates of NASA headquarters, a song by Los Tigres del Norte echoing from his vehicle.

While Peña provides a measured portrayal of his character, Salazar almost eclipses the film with her compelling performance as a resilient, devoted wife and mother.

In a touching finale, Hernández dons his astronaut uniform for the first time and visits his wife’s restaurant, only to be dispatched to the kitchen; they are short of a dishwasher. It serves as an authentic encapsulation of a family’s enduring resilience.

“A Million Miles Away,” available on Amazon Prime Video, carries a PG rating for “thematic elements and language.” Its runtime is 120 minutes and it earns a three-out-of-four-star rating.

For further information, visit ‘A Million Miles Away’ on Prime Video.

Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about A Million Miles Away biopic

What is the central theme of the film “A Million Miles Away”?

The central theme of the film is the transformative journey of José Hernández from a migrant farmworker to a NASA astronaut. It is an uplifting narrative that underscores the importance of perseverance, familial support, and community in achieving seemingly unattainable dreams.

Who are the main actors in the movie?

Michael Peña portrays José Hernández, the central character who becomes a NASA astronaut. Rosa Salazar plays his wife, and both actors contribute to the film’s sense of realism and depth.

What social issues does the film touch upon?

The film delves into various social issues including racism, cultural assimilation, and deferred dreams. It also addresses the challenges faced by immigrants and the sacrifices made by families for a better future.

Where can I watch “A Million Miles Away”?

The film is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

How long is the film and what is its rating?

The film has a runtime of 120 minutes and carries a PG rating for “thematic elements and language.”

Is the film based on a true story?

Yes, “A Million Miles Away” is based on the real-life memoir of José Hernández, detailing his journey from being a migrant farmworker in Mexico to becoming a NASA astronaut.

Does the film make any cultural references?

The film resonates with another biopic released the same year, “Flamin’ Hot,” and even includes a scene featuring a bowl of Doritos. It also touches on elements of Mexican-American culture and experiences.

Who directed the film?

The film was directed by Alejandra Márquez Abella, who lends the story both elegance and subtlety, although at times the symbolic elements feel a bit forced.

How does the film differ from typical biopics?

While many biopics risk glorifying their subjects, “A Million Miles Away” maintains a balanced approach. It acknowledges the hardships and sacrifices made by Hernández and his community, making it relatable and grounding the inspirational story in reality.

What is the significance of the title “A Million Miles Away”?

The title encapsulates the extraordinary distance José Hernández travels, both literally and metaphorically, from the fields of Michoacan, Mexico to orbiting Earth in the International Space Station.

More about A Million Miles Away biopic

You may also like


AnaG September 16, 2023 - 12:41 pm

that social angle is something we really need more of in movies today. Racism, assimilation, it’s all there. Can’t wait to watch.

JohnDoe September 16, 2023 - 4:33 pm

Wow, this film sounds amazing! Really want to see how they’ve managed to keep it real, you know? So tired of biopics that just glorify ppl.

MovieBuff101 September 16, 2023 - 7:38 pm

Michael Pena as an astronaut? Count me in! This is def a must-see. Rosa Salazar’s also an underrated gem, so glad she’s gettin’ the spotlight.

MariaV September 17, 2023 - 3:53 am

As someone who grew up in a migrant family, this hits close to home. It’s high time we had more stories like this on the big screen. so excited.

EllaT September 17, 2023 - 4:25 am

Seems like a balanced review. i like how it doesn’t just hype up the movie, but also talks about its shortcomings. Makes me more inclined to see it.

BookWorm September 17, 2023 - 5:47 am

Didnt know it was based on a memoir. gotta check that out before watching the film.

TechGeek September 17, 2023 - 7:52 am

200 miles above Earth? As a space nerd, I’m really curious how they’ve depicted the International Space Station and zero-gravity scenes.


Leave a Comment


BNB – Big Big News is a news portal that offers the latest news from around the world. BNB – Big Big News focuses on providing readers with the most up-to-date information from the U.S. and abroad, covering a wide range of topics, including politics, sports, entertainment, business, health, and more.

Editors' Picks

Latest News

© 2023 BBN – Big Big News