Beth's Blockbuster Blog - The Sun is Also a Star
Let's get one thing about me out of the way: I'm a sucker for a good YA romance novel. Eleanor & Park, Paper Towns, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, anything by Sarah Dessen, basically if it's been a popular read for teens, I've read it. So when I heard about Nicola Yoon's second novel The Sun is Also a Star was being turned into a film, I was ecstatic, but also concerned. It's hard to convert a novel with first person narration, let alone two narrators. But this book also has moments where it cuts away to other side characters with minor connections to the two leads that play a bigger part in the finale. So how does the film conquer this?
It does so terribly, as you probably expected. Not only does it cut out the side characters, but it also cuts out most of the side tangents the characters go on discussing things in their lives, like Natasha's anguish with her father, or the story behind Daniel's brother's failure in college. Yet it leaves parts of these elements in making it hard for the viewer to follow along with the side characters. On top of all this, they still keep in Natasha's anger towards her father for causing them to be deported, when it's unjustified here since he got caught by a random ICE check. In the book, it's because he got a DUI and while being processed for that they discovered his secret.
This isn't to say that the parts that are faithful to the book are great either. A significant part of the book is the relationship between Daniel and his parents as they dream for him to be a doctor and live a great life, as they're immigrants themselves and want the best for their son, since their first son disappointed them by doing nothing with his life in their eyes. But he chooses to focus on his poetry instead. In the film, he does the same but it feels like he's doing it because he randomly met Natasha today, when normally he would just buy into this life that his parents convinced him he wanted. Though this is how it happens in the book, it feels so much more flawed and rushed in the film. On the other hand, you have Natasha having hope that she can stop her family's deportation back to Jamaica the day before they're suppose to be deported. Of course, in the end she is unable to stop it, but she acts as if it's a huge surprise and the lawyer's fault that he couldn't stop it, when that's an impossible situation to stop.
Maybe if the characters were more interesting or had better chemistry there wouldn't be a need to focus on the lack of sense the story makes. Yet, Natasha is very focused on her "science is the only thing that matters" ways, even when she begins to fall for Daniel. Daniel at least has some growth by becoming less of a coward and more outgoing, but even then, he's still the boy who is just looking for approval, it just switches from looking for his parents' approval to looking for Natasha's approval. Plus, the two actors had no chemistry together, which makes it even harder to tolerate the two. Easily the best moment is the karaoke bar scene where she dreams of the life between the two of them, but that's just a fantasy. Their real life romance feels so forced, which does fit the story as they're testing to see if it's possible to make someone fall in love with you in one day. But at the same time, there needs to be some chemistry to keep the audience interested and it's not there.
The other bizarre feature of this film is the crazy/spinning shots this film uses in excess. Several times this film has rotating shots for no reason other than to mix up the constant shots of New York City's skyline featured. Other shots seem out of focus and blurry, and it's unknown if it's suppose to be intentional or not. Lastly, there's even shots with unnecessary filters on them, that look like someone stuck a random Instagram filter over the shot. None of these decisions seem intentional, they just seem like some editor got bored while putting the movie together and threw this stuff in to make it more interesting to them, but forgot to take it out before sending the director the final cut.
Both of these actors have potential to do great things. Yara Shahidi has proven herself to be great in Black-ish and Grown-ish, showing she can stand her own. Charles Melton plays well in the ensemble cast of Riverdale. However, neither actor is giving this film their best work, which isn't helped by the quality of the script either. Plus, the poor quality of the shots will easily give audiences a headache too. This film could've had a lot of potential if it was in better hands, but unfortunately, it is what it is. So, believe in love, and happy watching!