The Dove Take:
From a teenager’s perspective, The Sun is Also a Star addresses the issue of consequences for illegally living in the United States. Although the film is also a teen love story, a few scenes prevent it from being recommended for Dove families.
A teenager finds love at a difficult time in her family’s life.
Nine years ago, Samuel Kingsley brought his family, including now 18-year-old, straight-A astronomy student Natasha (Yara Shahidi), to New York City from Jamaica. After a prolonged battle with U.S. Immigration Services, the Kingsleys have one day left before forced deportation. Refusing to give up her home, Natasha sets out on her own, managing to secure an appointment with an immigration attorney. Meanwhile she’s been spotted by a Korean boy, Daniel (Charles Melton), an optimistic, free-spirited, romantic poet. Against his innermost desires and submitting to incredible family pressure, he traverses the city to a Dartmouth interview when his path is jackknifed by Natasha. From the moment of their meeting, his life’s aim turns to winning the challenge of making the beautiful and nihilistic Natasha fall in love with him by day’s end. Melton commands his role with ease, but his athletic persona betrays his character as a high school poet.
As happenstance would have it, both of their meetings get postponed, giving them time to enjoy each other’s company. Soon they find themselves in a private Karaoke room where Daniel’s not-too-bad rendition of “Crimson and Clover” has Natasha dreaming of the perfect future with him. This, of course, leads to a major groping session, cut short by Natasha’s phone alarm alerting her to her meeting. Angry that she departed from her reasonable self, she bipolarly snatches her phone and huffs away from the bewildered Daniel. However, after the attorney advises her he will submit her family’s case to be reopened, they connect again in an accelerated romance. Not too happy are the parents of the errant teens, whose return home triggers certain family dynamics. One of these is exposed by racist and sexually antagonistic comments from Daniel’s jealous older brother, played exceptionally by Jake Choi, who intriguingly layers the role.
The film opens and closes with Natasha quoting the late Carl Sagan, astronomer and staunch atheist. However, throughout the film, coincidences happen, unexplained happenstances that support Daniel’s “if it’s meant to be” philosophy of life. The problem is they are overused and appear more like loopholes in the writing; we begin to focus more on the unrealistic and concocted nature of these coincidences than the rest of the story. Other interruptions happen when the creators employ the choice of inserting shots of photos and drawings presentation-style as characters are explaining some factual exposition. Messy shooting is a film choice probably intended to undergird an image of the messy nature of growing up in New York City but can distract from the story. Overall, The Sun is Also a Star depicts well the fervency of teen relationships, but due to various moments of profanity, the scenes of sexual antagonism and the overall atheistic worldview, this film is not Dove-Approved.
What to talk about
Although Natasha has a slight change of heart at the very end, her worldview is decidedly skewed toward atheism. The film uses quotes from atheist Carl Sagan. Natasha promotes the idea of the evolved ‘multiverse.’ Actors look much older than their characters’ ages. Consequences of living illegally in the U.S. can hurt the whole family. Families of different backgrounds are depicted, with different characteristics revealed. However, both families in the film were nuclear families with a tight bond.