The Sun is Also a Star Review
With its themes of immigration and deportation, The Sun is Also a Star is perhaps even more relevant today than it was when published as a YA novel by Nicola Yoon in 2015. But any hope of that playing a meaningful role in this tale of two fresh-faced star-crossed lovers quickly evaporates. In the film, at least, it exists solely as a heavy-handed plot device to keep a young Black woman and a young Asian man within a stone’s throw distance of each other so they can eventually fall in love.
Yara Shahidi (grown-ish) stars as Natasha Kingsley, with Charles Melton (Riverdale) featuring opposite as Daniel Bae. She’s a high school student one day away from being deported with her family back to Jamaica. He’s reluctantly attending an alumni interview for Dartmouth College as his family have decided he should become a doctor. Natasha is frantically trying to secure a meeting with lawyer Jeremy Martinez (John Leguizamo) who she hopes can organise a last minute reprisal. In a life-saving moment they come face-to-face and by sunset love is in the air.
The review could end here with a simple ‘The End’. We all know what’s coming, why bother continuing? Well, we like to watch other people fall in love because it reminds us of the purity of the emotion. It’s joyful. When done right, of course. Which is an important caveat to remember when talking about this film. The Instagram couple are the stuff dreams are made of but their whirlwind model romance couldn’t be more bland.
Opening with a quote from American astronomer Carl Sagan, director Ry Russo-Young’s film swaddles itself in wishy-washy notions of destiny, fate and the unknown forces of the universe. Much of this is forced out through Shahidi’s voiceover which appears to come straight from the pages of Yoon’s novel. And while Natasha wonders about the pull of the sun, moon and stars, she seems pretty laid back about her family’s dire situation.
The entire set-up behind their romance is also pretty creepy. Daniel follows Natasha off a train and, once introduced, asks her to hang around so he can convince her to fall in love with him in only a few hours. Maybe it works better in the book, but despite the best efforts of the two actors the contrived narrative offers no way into the heart of their fantasy romance.
There is probably more beauty to be found in the way DP Autumn Durald shoots a sun-kissed New York, with the couple somehow finding time to visit the planetarium, hire a karaoke room and finally take a cable car ride. As it is supposed to be the film is inoffensive in every way, treating parental conflict and moments of racial tension as largely inconsequential. It’s a picture-perfect vision of love that many hope for but it’s far from Cupid’s finest hour.
The Sun is Also a Star opens nationwide in the UK on August 9.