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story.lead_photo.caption Teenage lovers Natasha (Yara Shahidi) and Daniel (Charles Melton) try to figure things out in The Sun Is Also a Star, a sincere young-adult romance, directed by Ry Russo-Young and based on Nicola Yoon’s best-selling novel.

New York is full of stories; at least 8 million of them. They might all be worth hearing, but it's the obligation of the storyteller to make them compelling. So two beautiful people have a single day to fall in love? Fine, it's an old story and its success depends on the telling. But maybe the makers of The Sun Is Also a Star would have fared better with a feature about Pizza Rat.

Even The Wizard of Oz would have been disappointing if we had known from the beginning that the man behind the curtain was as ordinary and frail as anyone else. And we can discern from the opening frames that The Sun Is Also a Star director Ry Russo-Young is trying to manipulate viewers into having mushy feelings for Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) and Daniel Bae (Charles Melton). Inevitability may be comforting in a lazy sort of way, but it's no fun.

The Sun Is Also a Star

72 Cast: Yara Shahidi, Charles Melton, Keong Sim, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Jake Choi, Cathy Shim, Camrus Johnson

Director: Ry Russo-Young

Rating: PG-13, for some suggestive content and language

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Natasha puts on a jacket reading "Deus Ex Machina" on the same morning would-be poet Daniel scribbles the phrase in his notebook, so we know they're meant for each other. But there's nothing euphoric about the realization, it's more the anticlimax of correctly guessing the sort of incentives a used car dealer will offer us.

At least screenwriter Tracy Oliver (the far more ribald, honest and entertaining Girls Trip) and novelist Nicola Yoon insert a couple of decent obstacles to our protagonists' potential union. One serious deal breaker is the fact that neither is scheduled to be in town much longer.

Daniel is about to go to Dartmouth to start a medical career even though he'd rather write. His Korean-American parents want him to be the upwardly mobile fellow they and their older son (Jake Choi) couldn't be. Nobody has told him that Wallace Stevens toiled as a Wall Street executive when he wasn't writing "The Man with the Blue Guitar." We don't hear any examples of his poetry, so it's hard to tell if his passion is a worthy enterprise or an excuse to act pretentiously. His well-chiseled features seem to be the only thing he brings to any relationship.

Natasha is struggling with a more urgent crisis. ICE is deporting her and her family to Jamaica because her dad's (Gbenga Akinnagbe) paperwork isn't in order. Natasha has spent most of her life in the city, so leaving high school and her friends will be more than a minor inconvenience.

The two become emotionally entwined because Daniel saves Natasha from being mowed over by a speeding BMW.

Daniel believes in benign unseen forces like love whereas Natasha understandably feels that fate isn't so kind. She wants to be an astronomer, so he offers to prove love exists in just the amount of time it will take before her meeting with an immigration lawyer takes place.

Not much happens from there.

It would be easier to share in the budding romance if we could experience some of it for ourselves. A couple of decent sociological observations in the voiceover aren't as potentially engaging as actually seeing the two interact in a meaningful way. As much as I hate to admit it, long kissing shots and a karaoke interlude don't count.

It's almost as if Russo-Young and editor Joe Landauer sat in the cutting room with a stopwatch making sure each smooch or long walk lasted long enough to ensure a 100-minute running time. The script also conveniently rearranges deadlines so that we can see the couple wander through a tourist's view of Manhattan.

MovieStyle on 05/17/2019

Print Headline: The Sun Is Also a Star

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