Based on the New York Times Bestselling novel by Nicola Yoon, The Sun is Also a Star wants us to examine the infinite possibilities of the universe and the interconnectedness of people. It’s a pretty broad topic but it’s filtered beautifully through the two main characters Natasha Kingsley (played by Yara Shahidi) and Daniel Bae (played by Charles Melton). The film made me think about things like destiny, physics, astronomy, history, and time but it also did a great job at highlighting the physical, emotional, and epistemological challenges immigrant children and the children of immigrants face in the US. It was also very interesting to see a teen love story framed around deportation.
The film follows Natasha around NYC as she tries desperately to halt her family’s next day deportation to Jamaica after her father was caught in a random ICE raid. They decided to self deport, but Natasha isn’t ready to give up her life in America without a fight. On her quest to make this one last day the one that changes her destiny she crosses paths with Daniel, a romantic and an aspiring poet who is on his way to his Dartmouth med school interview. One that he’s not too excited about.
Natasha is an astronomy buff who wants to be a data scientist so her assessment of what’s possible relies solely on what can be seen, touched, and measured — while Daniel is all about following his feelings and the idea of destiny. Their instant connection is enough for Daniel to convince Natasha to spend her last day in New York walking around the city with him so he can prove his hypothesis — that he can make Natasha fall in love with him in one day. From there they share so many beautifully soft and loving moments that Natasha realizes Daniel was right— love is not bound by time and destiny is real.
The pair also share the similar struggles of being caught between politics, culture, and the weight of their parent’s decisions. There were definitely parts of the film where I teared up, particularly when Natasha and Daniel talked about the dreams their parents had for them and how those dreams have fallen short due to circumstance. When Daniel said “I’m first generation it doesn’t matter what I want” — I felt that. In fact most of us who were born to immigrant parents know the struggle of feeling like we need to be worth the sacrifices they made for us. Jamaican, Korean, Guatemalan, Syrian, Somali, Mexican — it doesn’t matter where they came from — immigrant parents come to the US because they love their family. They come because they want them to be safe and have the opportunities they didn’t.
My parent were tasked with the job of survival and I with self-actualization. The immigrant generational gap is real. What a luxury it is to search for purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.
— Bo Ren (@Bosefina) December 1, 2017
Daniel exemplifies the pressure to be a doctor or a lawyer or something tangibly “successful” by our parent’s standards. He’s a first gen Korean-American whose parents decided when he was born that he’d be a doctor despite the fact that now, as a high school senior, he’s not really into medicine. So what’s a boy to do? Accept his destiny or break with tradition?
I was happy to see how tender and compassionate the dreamy storytelling was, although at times it seemed slow and the panoramic cityscapes felt too long. I think it also could have done without so many intense close-ups and musings about the universe when I was much more interested in what they had to say to each other. However, there was really great historical and theoretical information in the film that definitely inspired me to do further research.
“Carl Sagan said humans are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it’s forever.” Natasha frames her story with this quote and by the end of the film we are asked to consider the fact that maybe nothing is random, maybe we’ve been here before, and that maybe just maybe, one day the lovers and dreamers of the world won’t be bound by borders.