Star Of Tv’s “Black-Ish”, Yara Sahidi Gives A Wonderful Big Screen Performance In “The Sun Is Also A Star”. A Love Letter To New York About A Love That Transcends Cultures, Time, Fate and Coincidence.
This year the two young female stars of “Black-Ish”, Marsai Martin and Yara Sahidi have made a nice transition for themselves from TV to the big screen. The youngest of the stars Marsai Martin produced, starred in and sold her idea for the comedy “Little”. Yara Sahidi who portrays oldest daughter Zoey Johnson on “Black-Ish” gives a star making performance as the brilliant, analytical Natasha, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants (although in her heart she is 100% New Yorker). She’s the classic case, that is made for Hollywood romances, of someone who doesn’t believe love actually exists. She believes if you can’t feel it, touch it, or prove it through science, it isn’t real.
Tv star Charles Melton of “Riverdale”, plays the handsome and poetic Daniel, whose artistic soul is being trampled by his Korean parents’ insistence that he become a doctor. Daniel has got a big interview that day to get him into the right school to pursue his parents’ dream, but his attention is elsewhere as he finds that his heart can’t help but skip a beat when he spots Natasha staring up in the middle of Grand Central Station. Daniel immediately knows she is someone special as he says to his accompanying friend “Nobody ever looks up”. Daniel knows that it must be fate for Natasha and him; as she’s wearing a jacket with the words “Deux Ex Machina” on the back of it. He believes this is fate as he had been woken up that very morning to those exact words, causing him to scribble the saying in his notepad.
After pursuing her from the train station, Daniel saves her from being hit by a reckless driver. She’s grateful for him saving her, while he’s high on destiny and fate, he tells her he can make her fall in love with him in a single day. “I don’t have a day” says Natasha, Daniel replies with “Well give me one hour then”. Your probably thinking why doesn’t she have a day? That’s because her family is due to be deported back to Jamaica the very next day, and she’s doing everything in her power to prevent it. You’d think something like that would take priority, over playing games with some strange boy. But hey the heart wants what it wants, and you’re only being deported back in a few hours? No biggie.
“The Sun Is Also A Star” is based on the young adult novel by Nicola Yoon, whose best selling book “Everything Everything” was previously adapted in 2017 as a film starring Amandla Stenberg (“The Hate U Give”). “The Sun Is Also A Star” is timely, representative of many cultures that rarely get their own love stories on the big screen, and it’s one big gorgeous love letter to New York City, in the way Woody Allen’s love stories used to be.
Once Natasha agrees to give Daniel one hour for his experiment. It basically becomes one long “getting to know you”, a walking-talking “Before Sunrise” (Richard Linklater’s film trilogy starring Ethan Hawke) for the millennials. We go on this day long journey with Natasha and Daniel as they stop for tea in Greenwich village, visit the Hayden Planetarium, and hit up a Korean karaoke joint where Daniel performs Tommy James and The Shondells “Crimson and Clover”. All the while a beautiful sequence of their sunny future together is played out on screen. Filmmaker Ry Russo Young shoots a beautiful sequence with a surprise perspective to flash forward to.
Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton don’t start off with a lot of chemistry, as it takes time to build them into a compatible pair. The way the two convey the growing care for each other evolves nicely thanks to Yara and Charles Melton. “The Sun Is Also A Star” is all about doing just that. Russo Young woos the audience into falling for the leads, the camera lavishes the beauty of Yara and the structured cheek bones of Charles with closeups.
Tracy Oliver (screenwriter of “Girls Trip”, “Little” and “Barber Shop”) writes a script that alludes to “the current political climate,” and gives both Natasha and Daniel clear-eyed chats about race. Oliver shows us how Natasha and Daniel’s cultural identity plays so much into their worldview. Both are first generation children of immigrants, with all of the expectations for the very highest success that their parents want them to have.
Natasha teaches both Daniel and us about astronomy and Carl Sagan’s multiverse theories. Daniel goes into great detail about the history of the black hair care industry, and why Koreans basically have a monopoly over it. But even though Natasha and Daniel don’t let their cultures and races get between each other, they don’t go completely without racial tensions. Daniel’s parents look at Natasha as beneath him, treating her like a criminal when she enters their store. The same goes for Daniel when Natasha brings him up to her family’s apartment. Both Korean and Jamaican cultural experts, are credited in the films credits to bring authenticity to the cultural identity of Natasha and Daniel.
Aside from them traveling around the city’s most romantic destinations, there is a love letter attached to the city itself. Even feeling as though New York City is a supporting role and how the Big Apple is the perfect destination for culture and the beauty of immigration and for a classic love story. There are beautiful sequences where Natasha and Daniel, express how New York became their home for their families and how their traditions had changed within the city.
Russo Young incorporates b-roll’s of people in their environment. The sound mixing incorporates the sounds of the city as it helps support the narrative and makes it look more real. Russo Young lets the beauty and open vastness of New York be their playground. The camera swoons over New York, as cinematographer Autumn Durald spins the camera in the middle of Grand Central Station. Editor Joe Landauer assembles montages of neighborhoods anywhere from Harlem to Chinatown to Greenwich Village to Queens. New York is captured in all it’s beauty to the stellar soundtrack of dreamy pop from around the globe, mixed with a brilliantly beautiful score from Herdís Stefánsdóttir. New York is lyrical, a place of magic, wonder, and love. Some truly great love stories have been built within the city and “The Sun Is Also A Star” is one of them.
Love isn’t instantaneous, regardless of what movies and fairy tales tell us. Love just happens over time. Not sure if it happens quite as fast as it does in “The Sun Is Also a Star”, but sometimes we all could use a reason to believe in destiny, fate, time, cultures, coincidence and love just as Natasha and Daniel do. Ry Russo Young’s “The Sun Is Also A Star” is a winsome and intelligent teen romance, lead by great camera work, a stellar soundtrack and a wonderful breakout performance by Yara Shahidi.
GRADE: ★★★★1/2☆ (4 & 1/2 out of 5)