The Sun Is Also A Star adapts the YA novel into an unapologetically sincere, and somewhat cheesy, contemporary love story that's still swoonworthy.
Though the trend of Hollywood adapting sci-fi dystopian young adult novels to the big screen has faded, the industry still looks to the YA genre for adaptable contemporary stories - and has found success in love stories and rom-coms. Movies like Everything, Everything, Love, Simon, After, To All the Boys I've Loved Before and The Kissing Booth were all adapted from YA novels, and were all relatively successful on their modest budgets. After the release of Everything, Everything in 2017, adapted from the same-named novel by Nicola Yoon, another of the author's books comes to life this year with The Sun Is Also A Star, which puts a new spin on a romance that blossoms over the course of one day. The Sun Is Also A Star adapts the YA novel into an unapologetically sincere, and somewhat cheesy, contemporary love story that's still swoonworthy.
The story of The Sun Is Also A Star follows two teenagers, Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) and Daniel Bae (Charles Melton), who meet by chance in New York City on a day that's important to both of them. For Daniel, he has an alumni interview for Dartmouth, the next step in attaining his parents' dream for him of becoming a doctor. Meanwhile, Natasha is desperately trying everything she can to prevent her family from being deported the following day. When Daniel meets Natasha and learns she doesn't believe in love, he posits he can make her fall in love with him in a day to prove that love exists. With both their lives careening toward major turning points, Natasha and Daniel spend the day together, but it remains to be seen if they can fall in love and whether that love can survive their circumstances.
The Sun Is Also A Star blends romance with contemporary issues facing the children of immigrants. Both Daniel and Natasha are the children of immigrants, but while Daniel is the first generation of American citizen from his Korean parents, Natasha and her family emigrated from Jamaica to New York City when she and her brother were young. So while Daniel must deal with his parents' expectations for him, Natasha is fighting her parents' acceptance that they're being deported from the city she considers her home. These character details bring depth to the story of the film, while giving both the lead characters and their relationship real world stakes. The two lesser-told stories also bring some much-needed representation to the often-homogeneous romance film genre.
Directed by Ry Russo-Young (Before I Fall) from a script by Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip, Little), The Sun Is Also A Star walks a sharp line between intimate realism and overly fanciful romance. Oliver's script often veers into unrealistically charming banter - dialogue exchanges that even Shahidi and Melton (who are each exceptionally charming in their own right) struggle to pull off - and scenes that push the limits of viewers' suspension of disbelief. However, the over-the-top dialogue and unbelievable nature of certain coincidences is tempered by Russo-Young's use of more realistic camerawork and confidential closeups. It works to ground the more implausible aspects of the story in a mostly real-feeling world (though there are certain preposterous moments that will have New Yorkers rolling their eyes hard). Still, The Sun Is Also A Star walks the line been realism and unbelievability well enough for much of the film, allowing viewers to get wrapped up in Natasha and Daniel's story.
However, the unrepentant cheesiness of The Sun Is Also A Star, especially Daniel's character, may not work for everyone. His idealism is meant to be tempered by Natasha's realism, but as she starts to fall for him, the movie itself loses some of its more grounded point of view. This builds to a climactic moment that will either work for viewers as an important scene in the overall love story of the movie, or it will veer too far into the cheesiness to be taken seriously. In an era of romantic movies that tend to lean more on the comedy in "romantic comedy," The Sun Is Also A Star goes the other direction, refusing to dilute its romance with too much of anything else. The Sun Is Also A Star is a wholly sincere teen romance, and while that may not work for all viewers, it will no doubt warm of the hearts of its fans.
As such, The Sun Is Also A Star may not necessarily but a must-see movie for all theatergoers, but it's no doubt great counterprogramming to the typical action fare that dominates the box office in the summer season. While those not interested in romance can likely miss this film, romance lovers and fans of Yoon's novel will want to give The Sun Is Also A Star a chance. The sincere romance at the heart of The Sun Is Also A Star isn't something often seen in Hollywood anymore, but will effectively entrance viewers in its sweeping love story.
The Sun Is Also A Star is now playing in U.S. theaters nationwide. It is 100 minutes long and rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and language.
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- The Sun Is Also a Star (2019) release date: May 17, 2019