By Mollie Campbell.
Movie: The Sun Is Also a Star
Genre: Teen Drama, Romantic-Comedy
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Cast: Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, John Leguizamo
The Sun Is Also a Star, (adapted from the book written by Nicola Yoon), is the latest teen rom-com to land on Netflix. Initially, it screams cliché, it seems so familiar, a story that has been portrayed so many times, wrapped in the same paper but with a slightly different coloured bow. And it is just that, but it still somehow manages to blaze a trail, as small as the path may be.
This story, set in the beautiful summer backdrop of New York City, introduces us to Natasha Kingsley, a Jamaican immigrant who just so happens to be leaving the following day, due to her entire family’s deportation. We watch as she frantically tries to set up meetings with the immigration office to prevent her from leaving the city she has grown up in, the film instantly does a good job in portraying the complexities of immigration. Yes, her parents are presumed to have come to work in the United States illegally, but the tone that is laid out to us is that of an empathetic one. She never chose to be catapulted into a new country, but she was and this is now her home, complete with an American accent. Meanwhile, Daniel Bae, a Korean-American high schooler who is preparing for his college interview at Dartmouth, with hopes of becoming a doctor, is seen nonchalantly travelling through the city as if it was just a normal day.
Disclaimer: this movie will melt the hearts of true romantics and call a dramatic eye-roll to action for cynics of love, dreamer’s vs realists. And if you’re like me, somewhere in the middle ground, this movie is probably perfect for you. Sometimes it is ridiculously pie in the sky and at other times, it is tender, insightful and honest. You have to accept the film for what it is straight away if you have any hopes of enjoying it. The true essence of this movie is the idea of fate, and how things come into play in our lives without us realising the true extent of its origin or meaning. And this one day in the city that never sleeps proves to be an example of this ‘fate’ that the main characters keep harping on about. On this particular morning, Daniel see’s Natasha and is instantly convinced that he is meant to find her and fall in love with her (the scene in which this unfolds isn’t nearly as corny as I just described it).
The problems I have is the classic structure of the movie, the girl who is critical of love and anything to do with the subject being whisked away on a fairy-tale adventure by some hopelessly romantic man trying with all his might to make her fall in love with him. And the speed with which this happens is so farfetched it is comical, but despite these unrealistic aspects, the onscreen chemistry is heart-warming. What makes it different from the rest is that the romance isn’t the only focal point, it also provides insight into a wide range of issues and whilst it may not tackle them, it brings them to light whilst seamlessly weaving it in and out of the plot’s core. There is a scene in which the camera pans out across the summer sunset skyline, the Statue of Liberty standing tall within the centre of the shot, this beacon of hope for millions…the city of relentless hope. This scene is inspiring, relevant and pieces the puzzle of the film together.
Lastly, the film does actually get better as you go on, the plot becomes more realistic, as the characters realise how unfortunate their timing is, harshly showing us that sometimes life works out in ways that we cannot control, love is something that asks us to navigate through choppy and unpredictable waters, even if it is fate. As the minutes are clocked up, you can really see the vison of the film and what the final aim was.
At the beginning, I was rolling my eyes, but by the end I was thoroughly enjoying it, it is inspiring in ways I didn’t expect. This film may be a tad unconventional, but it is a harmless 1 hour and 40 minute journey into a heart-warming world in which one moment of openness and truth, changed everything, igniting an unwavering sense of hope in these two young hearts forever. And in times as uncertain as these, maybe we need to cling onto that hope with all that we have left.