“A Million Miles Away” may not soar as a biopic, but Michael Peña gives a career-best performance José M. Hernández.


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“A Million Miles Away” General Information

Director(s) Alejandra Marquez Abella
Screenplay By Bettina Gilois, Hernán Jiménez, Alejandra Marquez Abella
Based On “Reaching for the Stars” by Jose Hernandez
Date Released ( Prime) September 15, 2023
Genre(s) Drama

Biopic

Film Length 2 Hours, 1 Minute
Content Rating Rated PG
Noted Characters and Cast
José M. Hernández Michael Peña
Adela Hernández Rosa Salazar
Frederick Sturckow Garret Dillahunt

Content Rating Explanation

“A Million Miles Away” is Rated PG-13 for mild profanity and mature thematic material.

“A Million Miles Away” Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

“A Million Miles Away” tells the inspiring true story of Jose Hernandez’s journey from migrant farmworker to astronaut. Hernandez’s story is a shining example of the American Dream and an underdog tale about someone who persisted despite whatever obstacles stood in his path. Director Alejandra Marquez Abella and actor Michael Peña make sure that Mexican and Mexican-American audiences feel seen and represented by Hernandez’s life. “A Million Miles Away” is earnest and thoughtful in its portrayal of Hernandez and his family, but at the same time, the movie is predictable and rushed in its plot.

Since he was a child, education has come naturally for José. He quickly solves math problems in his head; he’s able to respond when his peers are left speechless, but his family’s work out in the fields keeps José out of school. When José’s family finally settles in Stockton, California, José (Michael Peña) is given a real chance to succeed.

Years later, José is hired as a lab engineer but isn’t taken seriously by coworkers. He develops a relationship with Adela (Rosa Salazar), and the two quickly get married and have five children. When sharing their dreams, José shares how he wants to become an astronaut. Adela initially thinks he is joking, but when she realizes José’s sacrifices and work grind have all been due to this dream, they create a plan for José to achieve this dream.

More years pass, and José takes any job or class he can to make his resume appealing to NASA. He faces constant rejection but also undying support from his family. Finally, after confronting NASA pilot and astronaut Frederick Sturckow (Garret Dillahunt), José is granted the opportunity to work with NASA. But if he wants to make it to space, José faces more danger and sacrifices.

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A young José Hernández is told the secrets to success by his father in “A Million Miles Away” (directed by Alejandra Marquez Abella, 2023)

“A Million Miles Away” is a family story, an inspiring story, and remarkably true. The film tells a straightforward tale about one man’s lifelong ambition and how his family helped him every step of the way. The moment you press play, you know how the story ends. Nevertheless, you may shed a tear along with José’s family, too.

Other Noteworthy Information

  1. Josè Hernández is the first Hispanic migrant to become a NASA astronaut and the first person to use Spanish in space.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.

José M. Hernández

Jose is a hardworking and brilliant Mexican American who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Jose has faced many obstacles due to his immigrant family’s background, lack of wealth, and prejudice against him due to his race. Jose is still determined to reach for the stars.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Cesar Chavez,” their role in “End of Watch,” and their role in “Ant-Man.”

Adela Hernandez

Adela is Jose’s wife and most loyal supporter of his dreams. In some ways, she’s as determined as Jose to get him to become an astronaut and helps him create a map of how to reach his dream.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Alita: Battle Angel,” their role in the “Maze Runner” series, and their role in “Brand New Cherry Flavor.”
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Rosa Salazar stars as Adela Hernandez in “A Million Miles Away” (directed by Alejandra Marquez Abella, 2023)

Frederick Sturckow

A tough but fair NASA pilot who believes in José. When others may ignore or doubt José’s capabilities, Sturckow sees his potential.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “Fear the Walking Dead,” their role in “No Country for Old Men,” and their role in “Raising Hope.”

Review

Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive) 

Notable Performances or Moments

Michael Peña as Hernández

At first glance, playing Hernández may seem like playing a figure with a one-track mind. Michael Peña channels Hernández’s intensity and unwavering spirit, but the true magic comes from Peña’s vulnerability when discussing his family. The slight tears in his eyes when speaking about his children, his cousin, or repeating his father’s words convey that while his mind may be in the stars, his heart is with his family.

Highlights

A Grounded Depiction of an Inspiring True Story

Director Alejandra Marquez Abella allows the story in “A Million Miles Away” to tell itself and keep the action within close-ups of the actors’ faces. There’s no need for flashy montages, fabricated drama, or long-winded monologues. The stylistic choices Abella does make, such as including a variety of Mexican folk music and using home-video footage to convey the Hernández family’s growth, only further connect Hernández’s story to his roots.

a million miles away scaled

On The Fence

The Passage of Time Breezes Through Hurdles

Within a few minutes, Hernández had five children. In one scene, he’s looking at a “For Lease” sign, and in the next, we see Adela with a fully functioning restaurant. While the passage of time is a hurdle in itself for Hernández, summarizing 30 years in two hours provides only glimpses of his struggles and doesn’t allow the viewer to feel the full weight or drama of this journey. Perhaps it’s impossible to depict any one person’s story, but the depictions of Hernández’s sacrifices can sometimes feel like checking boxes off in the biopic genre.

A Predictable Biopic with Familiar Narrative Beats

While “A Million Miles Away” is predictable, that doesn’t make it a bad movie. Plenty of films are predictable but still good. But as stated above, certain key emotional moments (the passing of Hernández’s cousin, his coworkers doubting him, the loss of a NASA team) are anticipated in this type of story. If you’re not in the mood for a biopic, it could feel like a chore to watch. Still, “A Million Miles Away” is able to make all these elements come together for an emotionally satisfying end.

Who Is This For?

Fans of Michael Peña’s work and biopics that demonstrate someone overcoming the odds will enjoy “A Million Miles Away.”

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Cesar Chavez
  2. Hidden Figures
  3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

FAQs

Answers to some questions you may have regarding this movie:

The Reason The Movie Is Named “A Million Miles Away”

“A Million Miles Away” receives its title from the figurative amount of distance between Jose and his goal and the distance between himself and being up in the sky.

Does “A Million Miles Away” set up a sequel or prequel?

No, unless the producers want to cover Jose Hernandez’s failed political campaigns too.

Does “A Million Miles Away” Have a Mid-Credit or End Credit Scene?

No, “A Million Miles Away” ends with pictures of the real Jose Hernandez and his family.

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A Million Miles Away (2023) – Review and Summary
Overall
"A Million Miles Away" is a family story, an inspiring story, and remarkably true. The moment you press play, you know how the story ends. Nevertheless, you may shed a tear along with José’s family too. 
Highlights
Michael Peña as Hernández
A Grounded Depiction of an Inspiring True Story
Disputable
The Passage of Time Breezes Through Hurdles
A Predictable Biopic with Familiar Narrative Beats
78

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