By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
It took me a bit to warm up to “The Sun is Also a Star,”
the new teen, romantic drama from director Ry Russo-Young (TV’s “Cloak & Dagger”). It started off slow, and despite its sometimes-overdramatic swings, this unique love story got better as it rolled along. What really won me over were the film’s lead stars: Yara Shahidi (TV’s “Black-ish” and “Grown-ish”) and Charles Melton (TV’s “Riverdale”).
I was familiar with Shahidi but am late on Melton. They’re gorgeous together and the slightly awkward on-screen chemistry they exude merely adds to this unique love story from screenwriter Tracy Oliver (“Girls Trip”).
“The Sun is Also A Star” is adapted from author Nicola Yoon’s 2016 novel of the same name. It follows her 2017 critically acclaimed feature adaptation "Everything, Everything," with Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson.
In “The Sun is Also a Star,” Shahidi plays Natasha Kingsley, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her mother Patricia (Miriam A. Hyman, TV’s “The OA”) and her father Samuel (Gbenga Akinnagbe, TV’s “The Deuce”). Natasha has wholeheartedly embraced her Big Apple upbringing and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Besides, she wants to go to college and everything she needs is right there.
That’s why she’s desperately trying to do everything possible to keep her family from being deported to Jamaica. However, the clock is ticking. They have 24 hours before they must leave.
Natasha schedules an appointment with an immigration lawyer (a nice turn for John Leguizamo, upcoming TV mini-series “When they See Us.”) and he gives her the most encouraging news about their chances.
While Natasha is in Grand Central Station, Daniel Bae, a tall, slender Korean-American (Melton) sees her staring at the ceiling. He really notices the cute jacket she’s wearing with the words “Deus Ex Machina" emblazoned on the back of it.
Those three words just happen to be the title of a poem Daniel is writing.
What are the odds?
Yeah, Daniel is a poet. In fact, he would rather spend his time writing poetry than trying to please his parents--who own a black hair care store--and want him to attend Dartmouth College as a premed student.
Daniel just happened to be on his way to his Dartmouth interview when he spotted Natasha. Surely this is a sign of something bigger and better for him.
He catches up to Natasha and, heroically saves her from getting hit by a car. He insists that if she hangs out with him for a day—his interview was rescheduled--and she does the “36 Questions” love study from the New York Times, she’d fall in love with him. That’s some smooth talk there. That line might work on other girls, but Natasha isn’t like most other girls. She doesn’t go in for all that fantasy, romance stuff. She’s in love with astronomy and more pragmatic about things in life including romance.
Plus, Natasha has much bigger concerns than falling in love. Yet, the more they talk, the more they discover there’s some there, there.
Additional conflicts threaten to drive Natasha and Daniel apart like Daniel’s older brother Dae Hyun Bae (Keong Sim, TV’s “Dead to Me”). He’s somewhat of a slacker and jealous of Daniel. Dae’s racist remarks about Natasha doesn’t raise their brotherly love quotient much either.
Natasha’s family isn’t thrilled when she introduces them to Daniel after staying out all night with him.
Like always in these starry-eyed movies, true love often conquers all. Still, “The Sun is Also a Star” stands out since it eschews some of the predictable plot driven clichés leading up to the big reveal.
It’s also just nice to see a young black female and Asian male in a leading romantic role. Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton are the real shining stars here.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Check Out This Trailer For THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.