College-bound romantic Daniel Bae and Jamaica-born pragmatist Natasha Kingsley meet — and fall for each other — over one magical day amidst the fervor and flurry of New York City. Sparks immediately fly between these two strangers, who might never have met had fate not given them a little push. With just hours left on the clock in what looks to be her last day in the U.S., Natasha is fighting against her family’s deportation just as fiercely as she’s fighting her growing feelings for Daniel.
The last couple of times I watched a Young Adult (YA) film, one of the main characters almost always dies for whatever reason – be it a devasting accident, a medical condition, or a heroic act. Apparently, and weirdly enough I guess, the younger demographic LOVES a good romance with a tragic ending. Fortunately, I am happy to report that, spoiler alert, The Sun Is Also A Star is not one of those emotional cryfests. In fact, it is another typical YA movie where two unlikely people meet by chance and fall in love all in one day. So, exactly how does it set itself apart?
Like any other teen romance, it tries to stand out from an over-saturated movie category by starting with the main characters. Not surprisingly, they are total opposites. Natasha Kingsley (played by Yara Shahidi) is a very practical person who is an undocumented Jamaican, adores astronomy, and lives by facts and science. Daniel Bae (played by Charles Melton) is more of a romantic who is Korean, an optimistic, and writes poetry. Natasha does not believe in fate while Daniel does. They actually meet by sheer coincidence, as Natasha would argue, but Daniel disagrees and believes it is pure destiny. Being the idealist he is, he continues by challenging Natasha that he can make her fall in love with him in the span of a day. Of course, this journey has its fair share of struggles and obstacles along the way that tests this blossoming romance and for the most part, I was in for the ride.
One problem I did have, however, was how lackluster the acting and the screenplay were. When you get right down to it, it is following the same formula for a basic YA movie. Pretty girl tries to avoid catching feels for the hot and charming guy but no matter how hard she tries, she can’t help the inevitable and falls in love with him anyway. Sounds foolproof but sadly, I did not find the acting convincing enough and I am going to blame the script for it. For example, Natasha refuses to admit to Daniel that love is actually a thing and then before we know it, she is literally day-dreaming about marrying him and having his babies? They rushed her character arc a bit too much for me to enjoy the sudden transformation she was going through but, as I have already mentioned, this is very typical of a teen romance film to be doing.
I will say it was interesting to see how this movie tried to be relevant to our current political climate. After all, the story focuses on two first-generation teens coming from immigrant families – one Jamaican, the other Korean. Natasha’s undocumented family is about to be deported back to Jamaica because her father was caught by ICE agents. She meets with an immigration lawyer to see what can be done to help her family. Daniel feels pressured by his stereotypical Asian parents to become a doctor instead of a starving artist, despite feeling much more passionate about his poetry. Natasha identifies America as her home and she is adamant about not wanting to move back to Jamaica. Daniel also struggles with his identity and shares a story about how his parents settled with giving their sons names that are both from American and Korean descent so that they do not forget where they came from and where they are heading to. It was a good attempt at an intimate look into the lives of modern-day immigrants living in the Big Apple but I wish that the movie could’ve explored more into their situations since it felt like, again, the script barely scratched the surface on their stories.
To close off this review, I wanted to dedicate some time to talk about my favorite parts about this movie: the cinematography and the editing. Now, I am a huge sucker for cinematography that is well-executed with the help of a good DP and film editor, and this film did not leave me disappointed. It displayed some of the most gorgeous shots of New York City that I have ever seen in a movie. Other film critics have actually complained about how it almost felt too poetic that it started to distract them from what was going on with the main characters but I did not have that problem. This is a messy but innocent love story that could best be captured in a city like NYC through the eyes of college-bound teenagers with immigrant backgrounds and it worked for a moviegoer like me.
To summarize, The Sun Is Also A Star was visually beautiful and did give me a little of the warm fuzzies towards the end of the movie but it still felt like a generic teen love story and left much to be desired.
My score: ★★★/5
The Sun Is Also A Star will release in theaters on Friday, May 17th.