Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton in The Sun Is Also a Star (Photo: Warner)
THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR
★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Ry Russo-Young
STARS Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton
Based on the bestselling YA novel by Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star finds two teenagers initially having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Seventeen-year-old Natasha Kingsley (believably played by 19-year-old Yara Shahidi), who has called New York City her home since she was a little girl, is dismayed since her family is being deported back to Jamaica the very next day, a result of her dad recently getting busted by ICE while working in a restaurant. Comparatively speaking, 17-year-old Daniel Bae (not so believably played by 28-year-old Charles Melton, whose age-inappropriate casting brings to mind Steve Buscemi’s “How do you do, fellow kids” moment from 30 Rock) doesn’t have it so bad. He’s scheduled for an interview to aid his journey toward becoming a doctor, a career choice dictated by his Korean-immigrant parents. Alas, Daniel has no interest in the Hippocratic Oath, as all he wants to do is write poetry.
Daniel begins the day by writing “Deus Ex Machina” in his notebook, so when he happens to spot Natasha in Grand Central Station wearing a jacket emblazoned with “Deus Ex Machina” on the back, he firmly believes it’s fate and determines that they’re meant to be together. Accosting her on the street would probably be a tad creepy, but fortunately for him if not her, she’s nearly struck down by a speeding car and he’s there to pull her out of harm’s way. It’s not exactly a “meet cute,” but it’ll do. As they initially begin chatting, Daniel admits he’s a true believer in love while Natasha reveals that she only believes in scientific facts and since “love” can’t be proved, it doesn’t really exist. Clearly, Natasha is a bit of a pill, but Daniel persists, claiming that he can make her fall in love with him in an hour’s time. Despite all her protestations, it actually seems that she falls in love with him in approximately 10 minutes and 22 seconds, give or take 10 minutes and 22 seconds.
All this wooing, however, doesn’t distract Natasha from the fact that her family is being forcibly ejected from the USA in less than 24 hours time. She receives one last shot at reversing this misfortune when she lands a meeting with a pro bono lawyer (John Leguizamo) who thinks he can help her despite “the current political situation.” Of course, in the real world, “the current political situation” is more in line with the neverending stories of violence and abuse we all see on a daily basis — I won’t spoil the outcome of the film’s deportation plotline, but let’s just say it’s the sunniest denouement of this nature I’ve ever witnessed.
The Sun Is Also a Star isn’t a movie for cynics, but neither is it really a movie for romantics, most of whom would want some semblance of believability to be present. Rather, it’s a movie for fantasists, since Fate decides every single move made by the protagonists from first frame to last. Yet even after this incessant barrage of coincidental happenings, there’s a glimmer of narrative redemption when it looks as if the film will end on a note that, while not exactly downbeat, at least imbues the tale with some measure of realism (audience members were actually lifting themselves up out of their seats at this point). Instead, the coda that follows manages to top the ridiculousness of the rest of the film.
If there’s one positive to the picture, it would be the location shooting by cinematographer Autumn Durald. The film is very specific with its settings, as our lovebirds visit the Natural Museum of History, the Statue of Liberty, a Harlem hair-care store, and a Greenwich Village coffeehouse, to name just a few of the stops. Then again, this is hardly the first time NYC has been detailed so lovingly. My advice: Skip the movie, buy a travel guide.