The Sun Is Also a Star is the film adaptation of Nicola Yoon's bestselling romance novel. Two high school seniors from different ethnic backgrounds fall madly in love during a magical day in New York City. It's a hokey premise that surprisingly grew on me. Young adult romances tend to lack sophistication on the big screen. The lead characters here actually have depth and just the right amount of chemistry to warm your heart. Their attraction makes up for some of the sillier style choices by the director.
Yara Shahidi stars as Natasha Kingsley, a Jamaican born girl that grew up in Brooklyn. A practical thinker, she eschews the fantastical or immeasurable. Yara loves astronomy. Anything that exists must be measurable by the scientific method. Her family is facing an immediate crisis. Illegal immigrants, they are going to be deported in twenty-four hours. She embarks on a last ditch attempt to see an immigration attorney (John Leguizamo). Hoping to get a stay issued for her case.
Charles Melton co-stars as Daniel Bae, a first generation Korean-American from Queens. A poet at heart, his stern parents are forcing him to attend Dartmouth College. They have groomed him to be a doctor since childhood. The pressure has increased exponentially after his older brother's (Jake Choi) failure. Daniel is en route to his Dartmouth interview when he glimpses the beautiful Natasha at Grand Central Station. She's wearing a jacket that says "Deus Ex Machina", which just happens to be the title of a poem he was struggling to write. Daniel decides that this cannot be a coincidence. He follows Natasha, kicking off a whirlwind day in the big city.
The Sun Is Also a Star is an opposites attract story. Daniel and Natasha couldn't be more different in their personalities and interests. He promises to make her fall in love with him. She thinks he's cute with a whole lot of confidence, but clearly mistaken. She's got bigger things to worry about than romance. This set-up is awfully similar to Richard Linklater's classic Before Sunrise. The Sun Is Also a Star isn't remotely in that league, but develops their relationship successfully. The two characters, from different races, backgrounds, and ideologies; are wistful at heart. They are looking for something to believe in. They find the answer in each other. It's aw shucks cute, but aren't all romances goofy in the beginning?
Director Ry Russo-Young (Before I Fall) should be hired by the New York tourism board. She goes overboard on the Big Apple. The film is bloated with cutaways of the city skyline, subways, bridges, and streets. The characters traverse the city; hitting multiple neighborhoods and famous locations. The New York angle goes from enchanting to obnoxious. Yes, we understand this is a New York romance. There's no need to have every other scene as an advertisement.
Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton are popular television actors that I'd honestly never heard of. She stars on ABC's Blackish. He's on the CW's Riverdale. The pair's chemistry grows considerably throughout the film. Initially I found them awkward, but as they discover each other; the tension between them becomes more palpable. This is the most important, and best part of the film. It's also great to see a young black female and Asian male buck Hollywood stereotypes.
The Sun Is Also a Star is a diverse romance that shows a range of normally unseen personality traits and interests. It has flaws, but wins you over in the end. It is a refreshing look at a young adult genre that has become, no pun intended, too vanilla. The Sun Is Also a Star is produced by Alloy Entertainment and MGM, with distribution by Warner Bros.