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The universe is a vast and amazing place. It's been here for billions of years and humanity has been around for such a comparatively short period of time, it's little more than the blink of an eye. And so, the question is, if our lives are such a small, inconsequential part of the whole of the universe, does that make out lives ultimately meaningless, or is finding purpose and meaning all the more important?
That's (sort of) the question at the heart of The Sun is Also A Star. Daniel Bae (Charles Melton) is a first generation American of Korean immigrant parents whose path to becoming a doctor has been laid out before him since he was a baby. However, what he really wants to do is write poetry. While Charles' head is in the clouds, Natasha Kingsley's (Yara Shahidi) head is in the literal stars, as she has a passion for astronomy, but only as part of an interest in science. She doesn't believe in anything that can't be quantified.
The two meet by random happenstance one day in New York City and a smitten Charles convinces Natasha to spend the day with him as part of an experiment to prove to her that love truly exists. However, a day may be all they ever have, as Natasha's entire family is set to be deported to their native Jamaica unless she can figure out how to stop it.
Any movie where romance is a central focus lives and dies by the two lead performances, and that's all the more true for The Sun is Also A Star, because here, romance isn't simply one part of a larger story. It's not about falling in love while other things happen around them. The movie really is just about Charles and Natasha and the way that they deal with the unfortunate timing of having met each other on this particular day.
As a duo, Melton and Shahidi have solid chemistry. There's no worry that the theater's fire alarm might be set off or anything, but they're easy to like and engaging enough to hold the interest of your inner romantic.
The movie needs you to invest in them because there's not much else to invest in. While the ticking clock of Natasha's potential deportation is always there, it only pops into the story every now and then, and it's forgotten when it's not being explicitly dealt with. This leads to an overall lack of tension in the film as a whole. It's hard to remember to be worried about the future when the characters largely are not.
This is fine if you're invested in the love story, but for everybody else, The Sun is Also a Star is just going to be an incredibly slow movie. Calling it slow paced even feels like an exaggeration. Even if you like dialogue heavy movies, and I do, this one feels slow. Most of the film consists of two characters walking down a sidewalk and having a conversation. If you're part of the conversation, that can be perfectly interesting, but if you're not, it's just boring.
An attempt to add more tension comes from Charles' own ticking clock, a college interview to get into the Ivy League school of "his" choice, which he's not sure he really want to attend. However, when put up against Natasha's pending deportation, that entire subplot falls flat and feels unnecessary.
Because of the brief nature of movies, showing people falling in love in a believable way is always difficult. The Sun is Also A Star, at least, by virtue of being about nothing else, makes you believe its central relationship is real since you're there for essentially every moment of it.
The Sun is Also a Star isn't going to be a movie for everybody, but its simple story about simple people is about as far from the constant flood of Hollywood tentpole blockbusters as it's possible to get, and there's something more than a little refreshing about that.
Most audiences will probably look right past The Sun is Also a Star, and that's fine, it's probably not the movie for them. But hopefully the audience that will appreciate it will find it.