“THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR” is a romance drama based on the best-selling novel by Nicola Yoon. Starring Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton with Ry Russo-Young directing, the story follows a day in the lives of two teenagers. Both are going through difficult patches in life and when they meet one feels it’s their destiny, while the other sees it as a random encounter. Yet as the day progresses and they find life pulling them back together there could be a spark between them after all. Now my teenage years are long behind me but I’m still a romantic at heart and seeing young love can often bring up nostalgic memories of my own turbulent love life as a teenager.
I went into this one with an open mind, knowing nothing of the book other than assuming is was a financial success given its adaptation to the big screen. There were some aspects of this film that worked for me but overall it was serviceable at best. It was just too cute, and unrealistic for me to invest in or take very seriously. The two lead characters didn’t feel consistently authentic even though there was clear effort and energy in the performances. And I just felt the vibe from them individually, their potential love, and the story moving them forward being hard to connect with.
The story is set in a grounded, contemporary reality. With the subject-matter feeling much like a fairy tale and the combination didn’t work for me. Admittedly I will never know what life is like when you have the perfect physical symmetry of Shahidi and Melton bless their hearts. But regardless of that fact, the premise of walking up to a woman, telling her you will make her fall in love with you in a day. And being serious while saying it, just feels like something that would get a rousing laugh, or drink tossed in my face. Sure, it could somehow work out into a meet-cute story for some, but I don’t see it as being realistic. I heard someone once say the world is a beautiful place, one that’s even more beautiful when you are too. And this movie sort of visually encapsulates that statement of vanity.
But to their credit, and to no fault of their own beauty both Metlon and Shahidi do bring the film some solid performances to make the most of the characters. There was heart and charm to many moments that were actually sweet between them. These flashes of sincerity were refreshing amid all the forced sappiness and they resulted in the few genuine moments in the movie. I felt they were able to capture the awkward chemistry of two strangers meeting in the big city very naturally. But as the film progresses and the connection between them was supposed to be growing it just wasn’t visible to me. The story didn’t build the emotional chemistry between them with enough spark and passion to sell me on this girl, despite all her issues at the time, falling for this guy.
The deportation sub-plot was underdeveloped for the most part. It was explored in small doses but with the timing of this story-arc’s placement in things it felt like a clear plot device to keep our two budding lovers from being together. Quick splashes of social commentary regarding deportation were mentioned randomly in conversations and through a couple scenes, but there wasn’t much weight to it. I think this layer of the story would have been perfect to use as the bridge to bring these two people together. To give them a mutual bond or issue to connect over but it was used in a much more melodramatic way rather than to weave emotional intrigue which was unfortunate.
However, from a technical aspect I think this was a beautifully shot film. Director Ry Russo-Young does incorporate a variety of camera techniques that give off a strong artistic flare. Camera movements and the selection of angles capture the backdrops and characters with an immersive result. She was able to give the story the intimate feel it needed at times and visually I think Russo-Young was able to create a unique film from a script that felt like a by-the-numbers YA romantic drama. The musical selection was another great element to pump some personality into the atmosphere of the entire film. Songs were able to capture moods and emotions with a subtly that I thought complemented many beats of the narrative.
But in the end, it just all felt too cute, cheesy, campy, and unrealistic. I think the story could have developed its subplots with much more authenticity to create an intriguing foundation to invest in. Cutting the studio polish back a bit and creating a more down-to-earth feel would have been great for this one as well. But if you’re a hopeless romantic and enjoy some sappy movies about young love even when they aren’t the best, then give this on a shot. When it hits home entertainment.