With their magical love story THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR reminds director Ry Russo-Young of Richard Linklater and his “Before” trilogy, only here the love story based on a novel is more suitable for a younger audience. We reveal more about this in our review.
The Plot Summary
“I bet I can make you fall in love with me…” The aspiring student and full-blooded romantic Daniel Bae (Charles Melton) meets the pragmatist with Jamaican roots Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) – and Cupid’s arrow also hits them both a magical day in the middle of the hustle and bustle of New York City. Sparks fly between the two strangers, perhaps brought together by fate. But can fate really change for the two teenagers? In just a few hours, this will be Natasha’s last day in the United States, as she battles both her blossoming feelings for David, who wants to win her over, and her family’s deportation.
Explanation of the Ending
Richard Linklater is among cineastes (“Boyhood”) has built up a decent cult status with his (so far) three-part “Before” series. In the three films, each produced independently and nine years apart, he had the American Jesse and the French Celine meet and spend a single day together. Nicola Yoon is now presenting a very similar concept, although not (so far) designed as a series: In her bestseller “The Sun is Also a Star”, the “You Beside Me” author lets two teenagers get to know each other and initially only for an hour, but later experience a whole day side by side; true to the USA tagline “A single day for love”. Director Ry Russo-Young, who is very familiar with youth material (“When you die, your whole life passes you by, they say”) has now adapted the novel for the screen as a not quite as philosophical, not as lifestyle-oriented, but all the more playful variant of the “Before” films, touching on topics such as deportation, social injustice and family conflicts. The result was simply beautiful – even if a little too optimistic towards the end.
Natasha (Yara Shahadi) and Daniel (Charles Melton) feel drawn to each other from the first second.
In the proverbial sense, the term “Deus Ex Machina” means a solution to a conflict brought about by sudden events or people. This expression is written in large letters on the back of Natasha’s jacket – and since it would be a very intrusive symbolism to simply let her walk around with it, Daniel, who already believes in providence, becomes aware of his future dream woman precisely through this lettering. The question of coincidence or fate also runs through the film like a common thread. To better illustrate how everything in life is somehow connected, screenwriter Tracy Oliver interrupts (“Girls Trip”) the actual plot again and again to insert educational film-like excerpts about astronomy, time or the big bang theory. In the off-camera, Natasha, who is completely rational and doesn’t even believe in anything like love, finally links the scientific facts with her personal story. A charming idea to help the love story between her and Daniel reach truly cosmic proportions. And much more important: to ground the developments in the second half that sometimes seem a bit contrived. Because if something like fate is being talked about all the time anyway, you can also refer to it if you’re not making any progress in the narrative at one point.
It also fits with the astronomical superstructure that Natasha and Daniel visit a planetarium on their foray through New York. Likewise, a hair care store in Harlem and a karaoke bar in Chinatown are among the couple’s contact points. Repeatedly interspersed with images of the glowing skyline at night or the sun-drenched urban canyons in the evening glow, “The Sun is also a Star” also becomes a declaration of love to the melting pot of New York. What sounds hackneyed makes perfect sense here: Natasha, who is about to be deported, loves the city and sees it as her home. Cinematographer Autumn Durald (“Teen Spirit”) does an excellent job of capturing the Big Apple in all its beauty and diversity; exactly how Natasha perceives him. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is a little intrusive. The makers do not use all-too-familiar radio pop. They include so many different RnB and soul sounds in the film that, apart from the dialogue scenes, there is hardly a moment without some big beats. In contrast to the otherwise minimalist story, this seems incongruous.
Natasha doesn’t have much time left in New York…
Otherwise, this small flaw can easily and, above all, be easily overlooked, because of the chemistry between the two screen newcomers Yara Shahadi (“Grown-ish”) and Charles Melton (“Riverdale”) is simply so outstanding that you wholeheartedly wish the two of them their happiness together. Natasha, who despite her precarious situation still radiates immense warmth, and the open, somewhat brash but incredibly charming Daniel complement each other brilliantly. And although the two of them only become physically close very late in the film and the appeal of their interaction consists primarily of opposing views on life, there is never any question that there is a lot of excitement between the two. But the two actors also work well independently of each other. Above all, Shahadi’s desperate attempts to convince her parents to fight for continued residency in the United States make the 19-year-old look strong. Charles Melton, on the other hand, carries out his conflicts primarily with himself when his Daniel has to ask himself whether his desire to become a doctor was really his or that of his parents. When drawing Daniel and Natasha’s environment, Ry-Russo Young would have liked to have gone into a little more detail. So we only experience Natasha and Daniel’s family for a handful of key moments. But even so, the melancholic ending, which can be interpreted as either a happy or a sad ending depending on your interpretation and mood, brings you to tears. The only thing that really wasn’t needed was the final “5 years later” epilogue, which almost takes the answer to this question away from you.
Conclusion: The “Before” trilogy for young people – “The Sun is also a Star” is an ambitiously filmed, beautifully acted and succinctly told love story between two young people, without any involvement of serious illnesses or fantasy creatures.
“The Sun is Also a Star” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from May 16th.