THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR (2019)
Starring Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, Jake Choi, Camrus Johnson, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Miriam A. Hyman, Cathy Shim, John Leguizamo, Hill Harper, Keong Sim, Faith Logan, Anais Lee, Kay Day, Annie Pisapia, Assibey Blake, Matthias Sebastiun Garry, Matt Post, Jordan Williams and Donna Hayes.
Screenplay by Tracy Oliver.
Directed by Ry Russo-Young.
Distributed by Warner Bros. 100 minutes. Rated PG-13.
I have walked by and noticed the book cover for The Sun Is Also A Star at the library and book shops for many years. The 2016 young adult romance novel by Nicola Yoon looks like a sunset bursting on an otherwise stark white book jacket.
While eye catching, I’ve never actually read more than the back-cover synopsis. If I am going to read a romance novel, it typically needs to be masked by a dystopian future/sci fi/fantasy setting. So, I brought an avid YA reader with me to screen the filmed adaptation of The Sun Is Also A Star. That could be a dangerous venture, as my guest ALWAYS likes a book better than its film and is known to respond negatively to big changes to a beloved storyline.
Fans of Yoon’s novel can breathe a big sigh of relief. According to my friend, The Sun Is Also A Star stayed true to the novel’s storyline, with modifications to bring the novel to the 1 hour 40-minute film run time, but without detracting from the overall plot. She felt that the film complemented the novel. Her overall viewing of the film left her satisfied, likely more satisfied than my experience. I yearned for the details that she assures me can be found in the novel. So yeah, I’ve now added Yoon’s book to my summer reading list.
For people unfamiliar with the storyline, The Sun Is Also A Star takes place basically in a less than 24-hour period. It is focused on two teens: Natasha Kingsley (played by Yara Shahidi [Black-ish and Grown-ish]) and Daniel Bae (played by Charles Melton [Riverdale]).
There is a tension built into the day at its start. Natasha’s family has reached the end of their immigration appeals and after nine years are being deported back to Jamaica. Daniel is dolled up in his best suit, embarking for an important Dartmouth alumni interview in search of a recommendation for his future, with his family’s honor resting on his shoulders.
Their paths “cross” at Grand Central Station when both are taking a moment. He is people watching from up high. She is paused, looking up at the constellation-filled ceiling, living in a memory from her childhood with her father, when both were happy and filled with wonder. Daniel catches her moment and is at once surprised and captivated by this beautiful, observant girl.
When he sees the words on her jacket – words that he had written down earlier that morning – the poet in him recognizes that this is a moment to be seized and he feels fated to find the girl. He loses her, then sees her again on a different train and he takes the leap to follow her. Thankfully. Because moments later, while Natasha is immersed in her music and seemingly invisible to the world, Daniel comes to the rescue and saves her from imminent death by a reckless driver. (Does fate drive a BMW?)
This is the entré Daniel needs to begin wooing Natasha, who projects all science and seriousness, with no belief in love as a concept. Daniel bets that he can make her fall in love with him within a day but does not give up when she reduces that time frame to an hour as that is all the time that she can give him. The fates continue to align, and we get to watch some serious teen wooing.
The actors are beyond super beautiful, which is really good because the cameras spend a lot of time zoomed super close into their faces. Better yet is when the cameras zoom back out and really take in the stunning, perfectly lit NYC cityscape.
The storyline is sweet, while feeling incomplete. A story of near misses, teen familial pressures, and the timely focus on immigration should have had me wringing out my sleeves by the film’s end. Instead, the film’s focus stays tightly zoomed into the romance, with some great too-short montage moments of historical footage and flashback scenes to give context to the characters and their struggles.
The film never explains why Natasha’s family has come to the US illegally from Jamaica, a missed opportunity to really show some heart on the topic. Daniel’s strained relationship with his brother Charlie is underdeveloped and feels like it should have transitioned better. I have been assured that the details for both can be found in the novel. For my unread self, they were details that felt lacking in the film and kept me from fully connecting with the storyline.
The soundtrack is noteworthy – diverse, current, well connected with the montage scenes and the sweepingly beautiful cinematographic, non-dialogue moments. Equally noteworthy is the lack of soundtrack during most of the dialogue, which I suspect contributed to the ridiculously loud audience noises throughout.
Overall, the audience seemed engaged, occasionally clapped, and there were audible squeals at the end. Squeals. I am assuming these were made by teen fans of either the book or the actors or both, because while the ending was satisfying, I personally felt less invested than I would have hoped. I liked The Sun Is Also A Star enough that I will give it a second chance after I have had the opportunity to read the novel.
Copyright ©2019 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 17, 2019.