The Sun is Also a Star
- Eddie Harrison
- 5 August 2019
Luminous-looking young adult adaptation that overcomes its contrivances
With rom-coms in short supply outside of Netflix, romance on the big screen has become an increasingly rare commodity. Ry Russo-Young's adaptation of Nicola Yoon's young adult bestseller hoped for the kind of interest that The Fault in Our Stars attracted, but despite swoonsome leads, lush cinematography and a topical political slant, the Gen-Z audience didn't turn up and this teen love story bombed at the American box office.
Those who do show up will suffer a tiresome opening: there's a lengthy lead-in before the meet-cute. Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) is facing a tough day: her family are being deported, and she's engaged a lawyer to help them fight to stay. A handsome stranger named Daniel Bae (Charles Melton) rescues Natasha when a runaway car nearly mows her down and, when her legal appointment is delayed, a Before Sunrise-style romance blooms. Boy and girl steal a few hours together as they wander around Manhattan, visiting the Hayden Planetarium and the Roosevelt Island Tramway. Natasha wants to be an astronomer, Daniel aspires to be a poet, and the title comes from his philosophical ruminations about why the sun should attract less poetry than the stars.
Both Shahidi and Melton are graduates from TV shows: Black-ish and Riverdale respectively. They're ideal, but the blissed-out, ambient love letter to New York tonally jars with the underlying pessimism of the political subplot, while groanworthy plot contrivances let its good intentions down.
At least the film looks luminous, with sunny NYC locations and a multicultural cast matched with a diverse soundtrack, including Jain and Ali Farke Touré and topped by a karaoke bar cover of 1960s classic 'Crimson and Clover'. There are flaws that need to be overlooked, but Russo-Young's valentine to young love deserves to draw a bigger crowd internationally, appealing as it does to romantics of all races and ages.
General release from Fri 9 Aug.