Based on the best-selling novel by Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything), The Sun Is Also A Star is Warner Brothers’ addition to the early-summer canon for young adult romance. Written by Tracy Oliver (Little and What Men Want) and directed by Before I Fall helmer Ry Russo-Young, this YA adaptation is more of the same. (BKP: 3.5/5)
Review by Vice President and Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky
The Sun Is Also A Star takes place over one day in New York City – a city “full of humanity,” as explained very originally by lead character Natasha (Yara Shahidi). We meet Natasha as her family is on the brink of deportation. Despite her plea to the immigration office and an overworked pro-bono lawyer, she is moving back to her parents’ home country of Jamaica in less than 24 hours. Across the city, Daniel (Charles Melton) is facing a similar life change – an important interview that will determine his future in medical school. When he sees Natasha stopping to look up at the famed celestial ceiling in Grand Central Station, he’s determined to meet this mysterious girl who, unlike everyone else rushing through the terminal, has actually stopped to look around.
What ensues is a day-long adventure in which Daniel tries to convince Natasha that love is real – just because it can’t be proven by the scientific method doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. He works at softening her heart on this issue through a series of teen romance cliches and invoking his genuine belief in the power of destiny. It feels like Serendipity for the teen set, with a welcomed diverse cast and a promising premise (if a bit dumbed-down at times).
The Sun Is Also A Star has a more admirable message than most of its young-adult counterparts – that destiny is real, and that the very best things can’t be defined or predicted. It’s philosophically sound, though Oliver does more telling than showing in her screenplay. We’re never really shown why this particular turn of fate matters so much to these characters at this point in their lives, but we sure are told a whole lot that this 100-minute storyline was meant to be.
Sometimes these romantic notions sound beautiful on the pages of a novel, but they don’t quite translate to Russo-Young’s beautifully-shot movie, despite Melton’s best efforts. It’s a visually-pleasing, intriguing film that far exceeds Yoon’s cringe-inducing 2017 adaptation Everything, Everything. The characters in both of Yoon’s novels build quick romances based on virtually nothing, but at least in Sun, Natasha and Daniel have a point to make and a path to follow.
It’s unfortunate that the young adult genre has set the bar so low in recent years (the dismal March release Five Feet Apart and cardboard Netflix original The Last Summer are just a few more examples of how the talented Riverdale cast deserves better than the material they’re given). But these two leads and their New York City backdrop at least provide a coherent story and a sweet idea – that you can find the person who feels like home just by stopping to look around.
© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media / 24 May 2019
Photo Credits: Warner Bros.
Featured Image: Shahidi as realist Natasha.
Additional Images: Shahidi and Melton fall for each other in The Sun Is Also A Star.
Q: Does The Sun Is Also A Star pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?