By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Based on the young adult novel of the same name written by Nicola Yoon, this romantic drama addresses the issues faced by both immigrants in the U.S. and the troubles that the first generation, American children of immigrants often face. Though the romance that develops between the two leads has its lovely and charming moments, this story’s underlying urgency and conflicts get undermined by poor development and weak conception. The Sun is Also A Star might be relevant to current problems in the United States, and its messages do mean well. However, the story struggles to remain truly impactful by its stumblings to get off on the right foot.
Yara Shahidi stars as Natasha Knightley, an immigrant high school student desperately working to remain with her family in the United States. On the very last day before her and her family’s deportation to Jamaica, Natasha seeks the help from the government. While awaiting the arduous process, she fatefully meets Dartmouth Medical School candidate Daniel Bae (Charles Melton). Instantly smitten with Natasha, Daniel plans to spend the rest of his day wooing her. As the two get better acquainted with a romance sparking between them, the threat of deportation still looms.
With an adapted screenplay by Tracy Oliver, director Ry Russo-Young makes the story and film watchable and enjoyable despite the story’s shaky foundations. The story and its conflict relies on the silly premise that this is the very last day that anything can be done about the deportation problem. This idea begs the questions, why did everyone involved wait so long to try and alleviate the situation, but particularly, if it means so much to Natasha to stay there, why didn’t she intervene much sooner? This poorly conceived sense of urgency and tension robs the story and its characters of any realism and genuine power.
What mainly kept me invested in the story and romance is the solid performances by the lead characters and the sweet chemistry they share onscreen. Both Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton perform well and it is their acting and realization of these characters that had me at hello. The movie also features a memorable turn by actor Jake Choi who portrays Daniel’s older brother Charles, the rebellious black sheep of the family. The movie also has some solid work by Camrus Johnson, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Miriam A. Hyman, Cathy Shim, and Keong Sim.
And though I did not totally hate this flimsy teen romance, and do appreciate its attempts at relevance and resonance, I feel that it needs a stronger foundation on which to build and evoke. The Sun is Also A Star is worth a watch if one enjoys tge sweet charms of a teen romance, but not a film I’d recommend spending top dollar to see.