The Sun Is Also a Star
Movies about a seemingly impossible romance that blossoms in a single day amid a series of picturesque locations have become a mini genre unto themselves, from Roman Holiday to Before Sunset. Now there’s a young adult variation on this theme, based on Nicola Yoon’s 2016 novel The Sun Is Also a Star.
Set in New York City, Sun most closely resembles the first act of 2003’s Serendipity, in which John Cusack woos Kate Beckinsale through a series of iconic New York sites: Bloomingdale’s, the Wollman ice rink in Central Park and the titular restaurant.
Sun replaces the uptown ice cream shop with the downtown Caffe Reggio and the ice rink with the Governor’s Island tram, and it also displaces every previous version’s all-white cast with African-American Yara Shahidi (TV’s black-ish and grown-ish) and Korean-American Charles Melton (TV’s Riverdale), joined by a racially diverse supporting cast.
Natasha and Daniel meet cute on a momentous day for both of them: Her Jamaican family is facing deportation while Daniel is heading to his admission interview for Dartmouth College, where his family expects him to start on the road to medical school. She says she doesn’t believe in love; he writes poetry. Let the mutual melting and melding begin.
Shahidi and Melton both have confidence and charisma in big-screen doses, so they make an appealing couple to spend a couple of hours with. This is director Ry Russo-Young’s second venture into YA novel adaptations (after Before I Fall from 2017), and she grants her young protagonists the respect and agency they need to keep the thin plot threads from fraying.
The screenplay by Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip) does its best to bring out the cosmic significance would-be astronomer Natasha sees all around her — see title — but the movie doesn’t easily bear the weight of more than modest meaning: It sucks to meet your soul mate at an inconvenient turning point in your life. As such, it makes its case gently and pleasantly, but it never quite grabs your heart and squeezes as tight as you might like.
Grade: B. Rated PG-13. Showing at the AMC River Hills, Carolina Cinemark and Regal Biltmore Grande.
(Photo: Atsushi Nishijima/Warner Bros.)