A few weeks ago I went to see “After,” the new Harry Styles-inspired teen drama starring the drop-dead gorgeous Hero Fiennes-Tiffin. (I’m sorry — but not that sorry — by reading these columns you also get a sense of what my type is.) Each time I’m at the theater it’s as if the number of trailers played before the movie increases, but hey, they’re there to make money.
The trailer for “The Sun Is Also a Star” — based on Nicola Yoon’s New York Times best-selling book of the same name — was one of the seemingly never-ending ones that played before “After.” I was immediately intrigued and texted my friend who I knew would be just as into a cheesy teen romance with a gorgeous lead as I was.
The film is set around Natasha (Yara Shahidi) and Daniel (Charles Melton), two high school seniors each struggling with profound issues. Daniel has an interview with a representative from Dartmouth College where his immigrant parents want him to study to become a doctor, while Natasha and her family face a looming deportation back to Jamaica.
Daniel, a poet and romantic, spots Natasha — donning a blue and yellow “Deus Ex Machina” bomber — one morning gazing upward into the vastness of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Earlier that day Daniel had hastily scrawled the phrase stitched into Natasha’s bomber — a Latin phrase meaning an unexpected power or event that saves a seemingly hopeless situation — into his poetry journal. It was fate, he determined. Fate, which later manifested itself in Daniel saving Natasha’s life as she was about to be hit by a reckless driver in the streets of the city.
Natasha has science ingrained in the fiber of her being — beyond the fact humans are made of atoms. Natasha loves experiments and testable theories — she believes in coincidences, not fate. Naturally she’s skeptical when Daniel bets he can make her fall in love with him in a day.
“Just give me a day,” he confidently tells her. “An hour,” she responds. It does, in fact, take one day.
Here’s the gist. First, Charles Melton (“Riverdale”) is beautiful and I’m in love with him but not in a Timothée Chalamet kind of way. Second, the movie is a sappy teen romance bursting with potential but it ultimately gave into the cliches.
I love a passionate romance where viewers can empathize with the characters. If a movie has me bawling in the theater (and it’s happened) then I know it’s a good film. I wish I could’ve shed a tear when Natasha and Daniel hugged for the last time before she boarded her flight to Jamaica.
Perhaps Daniel was Natasha’s deus ex machina. She never was saved from deportation, but she left knowing her encounter with Daniel changed her life.
What I found most likable about Daniel’s character was his eagerness and self-awareness. He believed in fate and knew he was meant to meet Natasha. I’m not sure how such behavior would fare in reality though. Wouldn’t it be somewhat creepy to have some dude fawn over you like that, after only knowing him for an hour? Yeah.
“The Sun Is Also a Star” plays right into the daydreams I, and many others, often have of New York City. It’s the city of dreams, where aspiring creatives and daydreamers flock. Combine that lust for the city with being swept away by a beautifully poetic romantic with an unreal head of hair and sculpted jawline. It plays right into probably thousands of people’s daydreams (and night dreams).
That’s the exact problem with it.
That’s why I loved “La La Land.” Controversial opinion, but what makes me love that movie as much as I do — it’s my favorite movie and for reference, I watched it four times in one week after first seeing it — is its ending. Los Angeles is romanticized and so are the ‘80s and A Flock of Seagulls anthems, but Mia and Sebastian parting ways is what’s so realistic.
I cried for a long time with that movie, but it’s the sadness that made me fall in love with it. They parted ways to pursue their dreams — Mia, acting, and Sebastian, jazz. We can’t always have it all despite our best efforts.
It’s not so much that Daniel and Natasha just happily ended up together — they were still separated after a day. But after reuniting five years later in the same cafe they first sat in together, they kissed as if they hadn’t been apart even an hour. Life’s not that simple.
With Daniel and Natasha’s relationship, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud several times during the film. And I guess others didn’t find it as funny, as it was just me laughing in the theater. I almost felt bad but I couldn’t contain it. My friend and I would share these looks — she knew exactly what I was thinking. How people can fall for the cringiness of Hollywood teen romances is something. Of course Natasha’s immigration meetings were held in the same building, handled by the same person conducting Daniel’s college interview. Why wouldn’t they?
And does Daniel make a grand statement and sacrifice in the name of love? Of course he does. This is a cheesy romance.
I believe in fate. “What’s meant to be will be” is what I live by, but really? It’s too good to be true.
When you see guys like Charles Melton portraying a romantic on the big screen, it’s hard not to have high expectations.
The day this whirlwind of a romance happens to me or a friend will be monumental.
But alas, it’s a movie.