As nauseating as this romance can be, the young leads have real chemistry here. However, director Russo-Young’s penchant for the sticky-thick combination of melodramatics & YA-romance cliches cuts the film off at the knees before it gets rolling.
There’s nothing much I detest more than a hokey, cheesy, eye-roll enduring YA-novel film adaption. They seem to be the brainchild of studio execs to be used as jumping off platforms for younger female actresses to see if they are bankable for higher profile projects (take out the any of the book-turned-films about mystical creatures or sole dangerous bloodthirsty beings, I can only think of Ansel Egort being one of the male leads that has had a major film career after being in one; that is still undecided, however). So, why is The Sun is Also a Star different? It’s not, but it has its heart in the right place.
The Sun is Also a Star starts with a Jamaican-American high school student, Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi), who on top of trying to get into a good school is now saddled with the cold hard truth that she is being deported with her parents back to their home country which they left nearly a decade before. Natasha hasn’t given up on the idea of getting a stay of execution so to speak; while she is throwing one last hail mary, she meets Daniel (Riverdale’s Charles Melton, a real natural here), a Korean-American who thinks fate has brought them together, even if Natasha knows differently. She and her family have 24 hours before they are rudely being asked to vacate American soil.
The film is based on the book from Everything, Everything author Nicole Yoom. If you are familiar with her work, you know the message will be laid and spread thick so even the dullest kid can pick it up — even the ridiculous plot twist you can see from the opening credits. Her second novel is a little more grounded (barely).
Even as nauseating as this romance can be, the young leads have real chemistry here that often can be fresh, and even vibrant. The issue is that director Russo-Young’s (Before I Fall) penchant for the sticky-thick combination of melodramatics and not being able to water down the overly-rich, gag-inducing, YA-romance cliches cuts the film off at the knees before it gets rolling. When it tries to separate itself from other YA fare is taking on DACA, but it’s too disingenuous, brushing over the subject, where taking the look at how it effects this family would be the more interesting take. Yes, it’s a YA-romance film, but the storyline could have been explored more than the total 2 minutes it was given.
Either way, The Sun is Also a Star is a vehicle for Grownish star Yara Shahidi. She carries the film on her shoulders with a natural talent and charisma of a movie star in the making. I’m sure, like many before her in this genre (Brie Larson, Haley Lu Richardson, Jennifer Lawrence, Shailene Woodley) she will have a solid film career ahead of her.
Overall, the Russo-Young’s adaption has its heart in the right place, with wanting to explore DACA and immigration rights in a commercial film, but it spends far less thought on it, and too much on cranking up the sticky-sweet romance that will surely give you a stomach ache. Calling The Sun Is Also a Star idealistic, however, is like saying if ideals were a flamethrower, this film would only be playing with a Zippo.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.