Bella and Edward couldn’t be together because she was human and he was a vampire. In The Fault in Our Stars, the romance was doomed because of cancer. Meanwhile, the couple in The Space Between Us had trouble confessing their love because Gardner was born on Mars and Tulsa on Earth. The doomed teenage romance genre is indeed alive and well. The latest entry, The Sun is Also a Star seeks to delight the hearts and wet the cheeks of audiences, with mixed results.
The day before her family is to be deported, Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) is saved from speeding car by Daniel Bae (Charles Melton). Despite her cynical attitude towards love, he’s convinced their meeting is not a mere coincidence; that they’re meant to be together… but how can they be when she will be gone tomorrow?
The Sun is Also a Star is a romantic drama. It believes in true love, in destinies. Criticizing it for having events happen in a specific way in order for our characters to meet and get mushy-hearted isn’t fair. Daniel is drawn to Natasha because he was doodling words which happened to be on her jacket - even though they could’ve simply met like normal people. It’s fine but does illustrate this film’s tendency to go over-the-top. Not only is Natasha leaving tomorrow, but if she and Daniel spend too much time talking, he might miss his college interview. Natasha can’t be uninterested in Daniel because of her family’s situation; she doesn’t even believe in love. It lays it on thick it. You think “if she’s playing it THIS hard to get, find someone else, man” but that’s cynicism creeping in. We must banish these thoughts!
As a romantic drama aimed at teens, the movie ticks many of the boxes you want it to. The first time the couple holds hands, it’s sweet and genuine. While Daniel seems corny initially, the chemistry between the couple grows satisfyingly, enough for you to go “if only they had more time!” Either way, you like them. I enjoyed the contemporary nature of the crisis and the mixed-race romance.
It’s innocent and hopeful - almost to a fault. Having the boy you just met serenade you with songs is romantic but adults will wonder if these two are going to… you know… do more than hold hands and kiss? They’re old enough and this might be their one chance… just saying. It feels unrealistic, as does the ending, which is a betrayal to the emotions which came before it.
Less contrived than Everything, Everything - also based on a novel by Nicola Yoon -, The Sun is Also a Star overindulges multiple times. It’s got some nice moments for the young couples watching but it’s the kind of movie you won’t remember down the road and will ultimately outgrow. (Theatrical version on the big screen, May 23, 2019)