The Sun is Also a Star
Updated: Feb 8
The Sun is Also a Star is a sweet romance with a likable couple at its center. It engages with them as people instead of pawns in a contrived plot. They are that, too, but it fleshes their stories out enough to make them individuals, even if their love for each other felt a tad forced. This is the rare case where the obstacle coming between them has actual weight. There are too many shots of them walking through New York as music plays on the soundtrack in lieu of deep conversation and the ending is overly convenient. Still, it is mostly enjoyable to watch these two young people fall for each other. When it gets out of its way to focus on them and their lives, it is pretty successful at what it does.
Natasha is part of a family of immigrants that moved to New York from Jamaica nine years earlier. They are one day away from being deported, though she is desperately fighting to stay in what she considers to be her real home. Daniel is the younger son of Korean immigrants who have raised him to be a doctor so he can bring respect to the family name. He is on his way to a major interview that could be his ticket to Dartmouth. Fate throws them together just as life may be about to separate them forever.
The Sun is Also a Star (94 minutes without the end credits) is based on a 2016 YA novel by Nicola Yoon. It contains many of the trappings of the genre, such as college-age protagonists who seem far older than their years, family that solely exists to keep them apart, a lot of medium shots of them together in the sunlight and the idea that love is as big as the universe itself. With the exception of the last one, which fits thematically, those things are kind of annoying because they sometimes feel shoehorned in where they do not belong. It is like they come with the territory, so they had to be periodically included. The movie is not about its clichés, but they do detract from some of the emotion.
Its strength is in the details of the two lead characters. Natasha is assured she will be fine. After all, she is moving back to Jamaica, not some war-torn country. However, she loves New York and is devastated at the thought of being forced to leave. Through her, the movie looks at what America means to immigrants who have been able to make their homes here. Yara Shahidi is passionate and charming as Natasha. Somehow, while she obviously has far more important things to worry about, Shahidi made me believe she was curious enough to let this total stranger take her mind off things for a little bit. That is a huge boon to a story which stretched my suspension of disbelief at times.
Meanwhile, Daniel is at a point where he needs to decide if he can be the person his parents have chosen him to be. Fate must exist because then the universe can help him figure his life out. He has several moments with his parents and older brother that establish his background, but he does not get the urgency in his subplot Natasha has in hers. It was necessary for the actor playing him to be sincere and likable. Charles Melton definitely fits that description. Again, belief is key here and I bought their attraction.
There are a few lines that ring false and sequences where the plot takes over too much. Yet, for the most part, The Sun is Also a Star is an entertaining example of young love against all odds. It introduces two engaging people, tosses obstacles at them and watches them grow closer at the worst possible time. Despite falling into cliché and contrivance, it is written with just enough intelligence and insight to overcome it. In the end, these stories succeed or fail based on whether or not viewers care if the couple winds up together. I cared so, for me, it worked.
3¼ out of 5
Yara Shahidi as Natasha Kingley
Charles Melton as Daniel Bae
Directed by Ry Russo-Young
Screenplay by Tracy Oliver