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The Sun Is Also a Star Movie Review

The Sun Is Also a Star (2019) movie poster The Sun Is Also a Star

Theatrical Release: May 17, 2019 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Ry Russo-Young / Writers: Tracy Oliver (screenplay); Nicola Yoon (novel)

Cast: Yara Shahidi (Natasha Kingsley), Charles Melton (Daniel Jae Ho Bae), John Leguizamo (Jeremy Martinez), Jake Choi (Charles Bae), Keong Sim (Dae Hyun Bae), Cathy Shim (Min Soo Bae), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Samuel Kingsley), Miriam A. Hyman (Patricia Kingsley), Jordan Williams (Peter Kingsley), Anais Lee (Young Natasha)


Adapted from Nicola Yoon's bestselling YA novel of the same name, The Sun Is Also a Star tells the story of a fateful romance that plays out over the course of twenty-four hours in New York City. On his way to an alumni interview for Dartmouth, Korean-American Daniel Bae (Charles Melton of "Riverdale") has his eye caught by a girl he sees in Grand Central.
Not long after they do not cross paths, Daniel ends up saving that same girl in the "Deus Ex Machina" jacket from getting hit by a car. Her name is Natasha (Yara Shahidi of "Grown-ish") and she is on the way to meet with an attorney about her Jamaican family's impending deportation.

In this version of New York City, people allow themselves extra hours to get where they're going and they also frequently reschedule appointments at the last minute. Both Daniel's interview and Natasha's immigration consultation get delayed, so suddenly they've got nothing but time to spend with each other. Daniel plays nothing cool, coming on strong and talking about love and dreams. Natasha, whose goal is to work in data, has a more level, scientific outlook on things and she only sort of deflects his grandiose talk about it being their destiny to meet.

The two teenagers get to know each other a bit, talking about astronomy (which gives us the titular observation) and their respective uncertain futures. They're not Jesse and Celine and this ain't Vienna, but some viewers may be able to get onboard with it anyway, just as some readers already have. Daniel and Natasha's hours of fun, which seems like an irresponsible but cathartic way for her to spend her final day in the States, include a ride on the Roosevelt Island Tramway. There's also a visit to a Korean karaoke place, where he sings "Crimson and Clover" while passionately dreaming of the life they might have together. It seems like just a dream because even though the pro bono immigration lawyer (John Leguizamo) gives an encouraging assessment of her predicament, her family is still scheduled to fly back to Jamaica tomorrow.

Two good-looking New Yorkers (Charles Melton and Yara Shahidi) cross paths on a pivotal day in their lives in "The Sun Is Also a Star."

If you're not young and receptive to romance tales, it is very easy not to buy into Daniel and Natasha's relationship. It is based on attraction and little else. The two young actors don't have much chemistry together, which makes Daniel's poetic ruminations on fate
feel like a tacky, gloriously mistimed seduction and Natasha's pragmatic resistance a flimsy, easily overcome line of defense. Of course, this is a romance movie, so reason is not going to prevail.

As the miscalculations pile up, you wonder how the film is going to get out of its dilemma in a way that satisfies viewers. I'll admit "spontaneous green card wedding" does not seem like an implausible resolution the way things develop.

Yoon's story is well-intentioned and timely, given the state of immigration reform in this country. (The book was presciently published in November 2016.) But in feature form version, it's cheesy and short on good taste. What you hope will be a positive, authentic representation of two different cultures does not live up to that promise. Natasha's family (seemingly influenced by Yoon's own Jamaican-Brooklyn upbringing) is relegated to the periphery, while Daniel's (seemingly inspired by her Korean-American husband's) is there for the movie's worst bits, set in the family's black hair product shop. It is there that Daniel's older brother (Jake Choi) works to his family's grave disappointment and simmering sibling tension.

Only in New York: Natasha (Yara Shahidi) and Daniel (Charles Melton) share a park cuddle on a backpack pillow.

The Sun Is Also a Star remains passable if middling entertainment for much of its runtime, until a completely nonsensical epilogue spoils things. I suspect -- and have been told -- that a good amount of the substance in Yoon's text has been lost in being turned into a breezy studio summer romance flick predominantly aimed at teens. Surely some won't mind, but I think most will be able to recognize the movie as a diluted product too shallow to get lost in and too light to give any serious thought to the issues it raises.

If nothing else, it is a slight improvement over director Ry Russo-Young's previous YA film, 2017's Before I Fall. A more suitable target for comparison may be Everything, Everything, an adaptation of an earlier Yoon romance novel, released on the same weekend as this back in 2017 from the same studios (Warner Bros. and MGM).

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Reviewed May 17, 2019.

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