Cast: Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, Jake Choi, Camrus Johnson
Director: Ry Russo-Young
Strap in boys and girls, this is a rough one. I’ve openly admitted that teen romance movies are not exactly the type of movie I go for. They never have been, they never will be, but when a good one comes around I’ll give it the praise it deserves. This however, is not that movie. The Sun Is Also a Star is the same repackaged gruel that comes out around this time every year and picks up the money of teenagers and walks away without anyone being the wiser. While audiences appear to have caught on to the trick for this movie, the generic plot and poor performance by Melton weigh down The Sun Is Also a Star to the bottom of the teen romance genre.
The film follows Natasha Kingsley (Shahidi), a bright high school student in New York whose family is facing deportation back to Jamaica. While this is going on, Daniel Bae (Melton) is preparing for an interview with an alumnus from Dartmouth so he could potentially pursue a career in medicine there. After Daniel spots Natasha in Grand Central Station, he tracks her down and eventually prevents her from being hit by a swerving car. Daniel is a romantic and believes their meeting was fate and not a felony while Natasha is logical and doesn’t believe in love. Daniel bets her he can get her to fall in love with him in a day, but Natasha’s pending deportation puts a wrench in everyone’s plans and makes their relationship more complicated than a usual teen drama. Normally I give teen actors a pass since most of them are still developing their repertoire and figuring out what type of roles they should play, but I can’t mince words, Melton’s performance is tough to watch. His performance may be the most bland, vanilla showing of 2019. Most of his lines are said without any sort of emphasis or emotional attachment, almost as if he knows this movie is garbage and he doesn’t want to be there. Based on this showing, this movie is not beneath him and he needs to seriously rethink what he’s doing moving forward. There’s a real argument to be made that he shouldn’t have been cast in the first place based on the age difference of the characters. Shahidi is 19 years old playing a high school senior. That sounds reasonable in the context of the movie. Melton on the other hand is 28 years old playing a 17/18 year old. Was there no one else to fill the role? Melton being cast in this movie would be like if I got cast in Eighth Grade– as one of the students. For someone with that age range difference to get cast, they should have to be exceptionally good, and that clearly wasn’t the case with Melton. Outside of Melton, the film is absolutely generic and proposes the same phony idea out that love defies logic and love is the most important thing yadda yadda yadda. Natasha’s over here trying to become a quantum physicist and falls for the pseudo-science of some guy she just met, genius. The Sun Is Also a Star breaks all the basic filmmaking rules that similar movies in the genre do. Why develop the minor characters or show us more of the lives of Natasha and Daniel when you can just have them sit down and spit cringey, teenage rom-com lines at one another. We can do better than this, but the lack of substance in this movie creates an environment where nothing matters even though the mere premise should be enough to carry it to the end.
Overall, I’ll end this review with an olive branch to Shahidi, who had moments where she showed that she can perform in a dramatic setting. I’m curious how she would do if she had stronger material to work with, but we’ll have to wait and see. The Sun Is Also a Star could’ve been the teenage romance to revolutionize the genre, but the studio played it safe and generic, and it looks like box office reflects that.
Overall Score: 2.5/10