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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Sun Is Also a Star is based on Nicola Yoon's best-selling, award-winning YA romance about Natasha Kingsley (Grown-ish's Yara Shahidi), a rational, Jamaican-born teen who meets Daniel Bae (Riverdale's Charles Melton), a romantic Korean American student, one fateful day in Manhattan. The movie should appeal to fans of both the book and the two stars, as well as to anyone interested in coming-of-age love stories. Expect several passionate kisses, including a couple of heavy make-out sessions, and occasional strong language (one "f--k," plus a few uses of "s--t," "a--hole," etc.). A fistfight breaks out between brothers and ends with visible bruises on both guys, and a car clips a cyclist and almost hits someone else. Like the book, the movie weaves in historical, cultural, and scientific details and explores falling in love and following your dreams. Empathy is a clear theme, and the main characters' relationship offers welcome diverse representation.
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What's the story?
THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR is based on Nicola Yoon's award-winning young adult novel about two teens -- practical Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) and dreamer Daniel Bae (Charles Melton) -- who randomly meet and then spend an entire day together in New York City. Natasha, whose family is originally from Jamaica, is in Manhattan to fight her family's voluntary removal (deportation), which is scheduled for the next day. Daniel, who's Korean American, is there for a Dartmouth interview -- even though he wants to be a poet, not a doctor like his parents expect. Daniel sees Natasha from afar at Grand Central Station, and, after trying to reach her on the street, ends up saving her from an oncoming car. Over coffee, Natasha, an aspiring scientist, admits that she doesn't believe in love. But Daniel is a romantic, and he thinks he can get Natasha to fall in love with him if she gives him an hour. The hour turns into an entire day as the two travel around the city -- sharing favorite places, growing closer, and dealing with their family issues.
Is it any good?
Romance fans comfortable with suspending disbelief will find Shahidi and Melton luminous enough to make this uniquely New York City love story a sweet diversion. Yes, there are several too-good-to-be-true coincidences -- especially in a city with 8 million people -- but that's the particular alchemy necessary for the story of The Sun Is Also a Star to make the polar opposite leads think about fate, destiny, and being meant to be. And there's a certain amount of joy involved in watching these two appealing young people traipse around all of Manhattan together. Yes, the movie ia occasionally a tad slow, and it makes their romance spark more immediately than the book did. There, each lingering look, conversation, and mini adventure made the inevitable kissing and declarations of love feel more earned. But director Ry Russo-Young's interpretation of Yoon's book is in keeping with what's always made the story swoon-worthy.
Shahidi is particularly well cast as Natasha, who's initially resistant to Daniel's advances because of her family's imminent deportation. She imbues her character with the depth you'd expect under the circumstances. Melton is almost too amazing to believe as the earnest, eager Daniel, who wears his heart on his sleeve. The movie's differences from the book make sense, especially in today's political climate regarding immigration, but most of the key scenes -- and even the historical interludes -- are the same. The discussions of Carl Sagan, the universe, the historical reasons behind Korean-owned black hair supply stores, the sexy karaoke scene: They're all effective. What doesn't translate as well is the epilogue, which on film seems unnecessary and overly cute after a poignant, bittersweet almost-ending that would have worked better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether The Sun Is Also a Star is a successful adaptation. What changes did the filmmakers make from the book? Do you understand why they made them? Which parts of the movie captured the book best, and which parts of the book did you miss not seeing in the movie?
Talk about Natasha's and Daniel's relationships with their parents. Which one of them has a healthier connection, and why?
How does the movie depict love/romance? Is Natasha and Daniel's relationship realistic? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding romance and relationships.
Do you prefer adaptations based on realistic YA fiction or on genre fiction, such as dystopian/paranormal stories? Why?
- In theaters: May 17, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: August 20, 2019
- Cast: Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, Gbenga Akinnagbe
- Director: Ry Russo-Young
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Empathy
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some suggestive content and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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