Based on Nicola Yoon’s award-winning novel, the story follows high school seniors Natasha (Shahidi) and Daniel (Melton) whose lives change in one day. “Compared to the life span of the universe our lives begin and end in a single day,” she says.
She’s in crisis, a Carl Sagan-quoting realist dealing with the stark fact that her family is to be deported to Jamaica in twenty-four hours. “This is my home,” she says. “New York is my home.”
He’s a dreamer, a poet who loves Emily Dickenson and believes that love can conquer all. “I don’t believe in love,” she says. “So, no magic, no fate, no meant-to-be?” he replies. “What if I told you I could get you to fall in love with me? Just give me a day.”
They meet cute and spend an eventful twelve hours in New York City to discover if Daniel’s notion of love conquering all is true or a pie in the sky pipe dream. “This is real,” he says. “I know you feel it too.”
Whether you find “The Sun is Also a Star” naïve or heartwarming will say much about whether you are a Natasha or a Daniel. The touchy-feely why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along vibe is a simple and frequently over used sentiment but here it works if you buy in. Score one for Daniel. It’s the kind of movie where NYC Transit announcements are more poetic pronouncements—”You never know why you were meant to be here at this time,” blares a late subway notice—than simple information and life-changing events happen in the blink of an eye.
It’s a sorta-kinda millennial “Before Sunset.” Heavy on the dialogue, it proceeds at an unhurried pace building toward romantic moments geared to make teen’s hearts beat a little faster. Like an emo love song, the minor chord story mixes romance with heightened situations about the human cost of deportation and two lovebirds who may never have the chance to be together, destiny be damned.
“The Sun is Also a Star” has some charming moments—his giggle when she unexpectedly calls, and the way they look at each other at a karaoke bar—provided by the impossibly good-looking leads and aided by their chemistry. Those unwilling to embrace the “open up your heart to destiny” premise, however, may be better rewarded by cracking open the decided less romantic but equally metaphysical “Cosmos” by Natasha’s hero Carl Sagan.