[Screen It]


(2019) (Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton) (PG-13)

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Drama: A teenager tries to convince a stranger that he can get her to fall in love with him in twenty-four hours, unaware that she and her family are set to be deported the following day.
While high school senior Natasha Kingsley (YARA SHAHIDI) dreams of a career in the field of science, her immediate focus is on the fact that she, her younger brother, and their parents -- Samuel (GBENGA AKINNAGBE) and Patricia (MIRIAM A. HYMAN) -- are going to be deported from New York City back to Jamaica tomorrow. When an immigration official says he can't help but a pro bono lawyer he knows, Jeremy Martinez (JOHN LEGUIZAMO), might be her only chance, Natasha sets a last minute appointment with that man.

Unbeknownst to her, fellow high school senior Daniel Bae (CHARLES MELTON) has set his sights on her due to what he believes is serendipity. Unlike his older brother, Charlie (JAKE CHOI), Daniel has been destined since just after birth by their South Korean immigrant parents, Dae Hyun Bae (KEONG SIM) and Min Soo Bae (CATHY SHIM), to become a doctor and he has an important interview that could help him be accepted to Dartmouth.

Daniel finally meets Natasha in person when he saves her from being hit by a speeding car in a crosswalk and the two end up talking and learning something about each other. He learns that she's pragmatic, believes everything should be able to be explained by the scientific method, and that love is just an attribute humans have applied to the work of hormones.

Conversely, and being a poet at heart, he believes in romantic destiny and sets out to prove that he can make her fall in love with him in just twenty-four hours. With a little time to kill before her meeting with the lawyer, she tolerates his challenge, knowing full well that even if he somehow manages to succeed, she likely will have to leave the country she's been in for nine years the next day.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
It always amazes me that important people in our lives -- who aren't blood relatives -- usually end up there through nothing more than sheer luck. For instance, had you been a minute early or a minute late to the place where you met the love of your life, you might have missed that opportunity.

And it goes beyond just the two involved people as any outsider also could have deviated from their plan -- by intention or accident -- resulting in a chain of events that could have derailed the meeting and so on. But at the same time, there also has to be actual chemistry to make such a relationship work. A young man hopes to prove that both are in play when he sets sights on a young woman in "The Sun is Also a Star," a winning romantic drama based on Nicola Yoon's 2016 bestselling novel of the same name.

Now, I've seen plenty of romantic comedies and dramas that all pretty much play out the same way, often with some sort of gimmickry as their selling point. Here, it's that high school senior Daniel Bae (Charles Melton) thinks he can get fellow high school senior Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) -- who he's only just met in person by saving her life -- to fall in love with him in the next twenty-four hours. Being an aspiring scientist with a pragmatic, everything can be explained by the scientific method mindset, she doesn't believe it can be done and knows full well that what he assumes is serendipity, fate, and/or destiny is nothing more than simple coincidence.

Besides, she has more important things on her mind -- namely that she and her family are likely going to be deported back to Jamaica the following day, something her parents (Gbenga Akinnagbe and Miriam A. Hyman) are resigned to as a foregone conclusion. His parents (Keong Sim and Cathy Shim), on the other hand, have no such worries, what with being legal immigrants from South Korea. And they are laser-focused on Daniel getting into Dartmouth so that he can become a doctor, fulfilling their lifelong dream for him (and them).

With a little time before her meeting with a lawyer (John Leguizamo) who might be able to help her and her family out at the last minute, Natasha decides to humor Daniel and his quest. And thus begins the charming and entertaining if somewhat outlandish romantic drama that isn't as predictable as most of its predecessors as you assume the movie gods wouldn't allow these two to fall in love only to rip them apart the following day, but can't really be sure of that.

Director Ry Russo-Young -- who works from Tracy Oliver's screenplay adaptation of Yoon's work -- nicely balances the budding romance with the real-world drama about immigrants facing deportation, although at times it slightly veers toward fantasy as it's unlikely Natasha would allow herself to be distracted by Daniel and his quest, what with her domicile immediately hanging in the balance.

Even so, and with both of the leads being so likable, and wishing for something good to happen to her considering what she's facing, it isn't difficult to root for the romance to take root and then bloom. A moment where Daniel does a karaoke version of "Crimson and Clover" for her sealed the deal for me and I was thus a goner, hook, line, and sinker.

Featuring winning performances, a good soundtrack, and some creative flashback moments explaining (via voice-over narration) family history and more, "The Sun is Also a Star" might not exactly be realistic, but it shines so brightly that you probably won't care. The film rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed May 13, 2019 / Posted May 17, 2019

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