By Daisy Murguia
Squirm-inducing yet full of potential is the simplest way to describe the film “A Sun Is Also a Star,” based on the novel by Nicola Yoon. While the romantic aspects worked well in the novel, they didn’t translate as easily to film. The film wanted to be about impossible love, centered around the conflict of Natasha’s (Yara Shahidi) family’s impending deportation to Jamaica. With only a day left in the states, Natasha is making her last attempt to see a lawyer who might help them stay when “fate” introduces her to Daniel (Charles Melton). He promises her that he can make her fall in love just by asking her a few questions and four minutes of eye contact, which sounded cute in the novel, but only sounded creepy in film. Natasha is supposed to fit a stereotypical “love isn’t real” mold and Daniel is supposed to be the one to change her mind, in under a day. In the film, he manages to change her mind and make her fall in love, but that doesn’t work on the rest of us.
The dramatic opening scene, where protagonist Natasha talks about celestial objects like the stars and sun in astronomical metaphors, is meant to prepare viewers for a great love story, but — spoiler — it did not. Then, we are introduced to Daniel, who fits the basic standard for a love interest: he’s tall and hot.
Even with young, attractive and talented actors, there failed to be any real emotional depth or chemistry on screen. Perhaps the issue was the premise of the story: two young people meeting in New York and falling in love within the span of 24 hours. In writing, it can feel realistic, and you can stretch out a day into feeling like forever. In film however, it’s not quite as simple to create that illusion. Many scenes felt forced and weren’t believable.
The two-hour film had half the audience recoiling for a good chunk of the first half. The film got progressively better towards the middle, but it was still not that great. The only redeeming qualities were the beautiful and majestic shots of New York City.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes the movie so cringeworthy, but the dialogue plays a big part in it. It also seems that if you were a middle-schooler, perhaps, you might enjoy the film, but anyone above that age would not. The worst part is that there was so much potential for the film. It had great actors, it was set in New York City, and it could have spoken about the difficult lives of undocumented immigrants. The uncertainty that Natasha and her family felt with an order of deportation above their heads should’ve felt suspenseful, important, heart wrenching, and sad, but the execution was lackluster. Obviously the focus was supposed to be the love story, but it never felt genuine or believable to begin with, which separates good romantic films from cheesy romantic films. This film falls under the latter category.
The film could’ve made more sense if it had been released on a streaming platform like Netflix, where you can watch it on your own time and excuse the flaws in the film, but it’s much harder to do that when you’re watching it on a big screen, and with an audience. Despite this, Yara Shahidi gave a great performance, as good of a performance as she could, with such a bland script.
The ending was unexpected to an extent because it did not follow the novel’s ending. It was actually a bit better, but it still didn’t make up for the awkward moments sprinkled throughout the film. More than anything, once the ending credits began rolling there was an incredulous feeling in the theatre as the audience was left to wonder: was this it? By the end of “The Sun Is Also a Star,” all you’ll feel is empty. Spare your time and money and instead read the novel. Yes, perhaps not every book should be made into a film.