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Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Sun is Also a Star

After the dreadful After, and the mediocre Five Feet Apart, it was kind of nice to have a teen romance film built around two likable leads who just enjoy each other's company, and spend the day together.  The Sun is Also a Star is not built around characters trying to keep the young lovers apart, or forced misunderstandings.  It's simply about two people, and sometimes that's enough.

Like all romance stories, this movie rises or falls solely on whether or not we want to see the couple at the center together by the end.  This film gives us two likable young actors, Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton, who I have not seen in many films, but wouldn't mind seeing again and soon.  They have a lot of warmth during their scenes together, and they individually give strong performances.  They play two Manhattan adolescents who fall in love during the course of a single day.  Natasha (Shahidi) is practical and science-minded.  Daniel (Melton) is the dreamer.  Both are immigrants, and are dealing with their own family situation.  His traditional South Korean family wants him to become a doctor, even though he would rather be a poet.  Her Jamaican family is set to be deported the very next day, after living in the U.S. for the past nine years, and she is fighting to keep her family in New York.

They meet by chance.  Actually, Daniel notices Natasha in a crowd of people at Grand Central Station, and becomes smitten by her.  He runs into her again, and happens to save her life when he prevents her from being hit by a reckless driver.  They spend the rest of the day (and the film itself) talking, which isn't so bad when you think about it.  Isn't that what young couples do in real life when they meet?  They don't get involved in idiotic subplots where jealous friends and ex-lovers try to break them up, nor do they walk away from each other after a simple misunderstanding, vowing never to see each other again.  Natasha and Daniel don't do these things either, thank goodness.  Instead, Daniel asks a simple question, "What if I told you I could make you fall in love with me by the end of the day".  Natasha is skeptical but intrigued.  She knows she doesn't have much time, and has to meet with her immigration lawyer (John Leguizamo) later that day.  But she agrees to spend at least one hour with him.

That hour turns into many more.  The more time they spend together, Natasha's defenses are torn down.  She doesn't forget what's going on in her life, though.  She knows there's a strong probability that she will have to leave the U.S. the very next day with her family.  But, he kind of helps her take her mind off of her worries.  There is a sweet chemistry between the lovers, and to the film itself, which is kind of wistful and romantic in a way that few modern day movies are.  It's sweet, but not sticky.  It's not exactly smart, but it's also not dumb.  Is can be a bit implausible at times, however, especially when the movie asks us to believe that Daniel and Natasha spent all night sleeping on the grass in a park, and wake up the next morning with their hair and faces clean and perfectly styled.  Regardless, it works as light, breezy entertainment for young teens, and director Ry Russo-Young manages to keep the film moving along at a brisk pace.

The Sun is Also a Star is kind of charming in its simplicity.  It's not a melodrama, nor does it drown itself in excess plot.  Its premise is pretty much set up in the first 15 minutes, and the remainder of the film is just letting us see that premise play out without any distractions.  I kind of admired how the movie was simply about these two people spending a day together, and talking about their lives.  Of course, none of this could have worked if the casting was just a little bit off.  Fortunately, both young actors are up to the challenge of creating people that we would actually want to see a movie about them walking around the city and talking.  Not only are they attractive, but they are able to create genuine chemistry, and make us feel for them.  They are both sincere, and make the material their own.

They also made me want to see a happy ending for them, so that alone is worth noting.  This isn't a particularly deep movie, and most of the stuff Natasha and Daniel talk about isn't innovative.  But, I enjoyed spending time with them, and when it was all over, I was happy with where their story had ended up.

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