Who is Charles Melton? Chances are, you won’t need an introduction for long; the British/Korean heart-throb has been a rising star through streaming show Riverdale, and he’s a safe bet to transition from up-and-coming actor to legit star given his work on movies like this. In general, I try and review films only once, unless I think there’s a reason to re-evaluate; I published a three-star review of YA adaptation The Sun is Also A Star elsewhere back in 2019, and I’m upping the ante by awarding it an extra star now.
Adapted from Nicola Yoon’s book by Tracey Oliver, this is a meeting cute film; if you dug Before Sunrise, you’ll get the vibe as a couple meet and fall in love in the 24 hour period before fate separates them; but for how long? Melton plays Daniel Bae, a young New Yorker preparing for an interview that might help him move away from the family hair-care store to the refined auspices of Yale University and a potential career as an amazingly handsome doctor. But his plans are disrupted when he meets Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi), who is desperately seeking legal assistance due to the immanent deportation of herself and her immigrant family, who don’t want to go back to Jamaica. They’re both seeking help from the same lawyer (John Leguizamo), a co-incidence that is only one of the many factors which conspire to keep these star-crossed lovers together and apart at the same time…
First time around, I did my level best to resist this rather lovely film; yes, it’s dreamy and sentimental, lushly photographed and garlanded with great pop music like Jain’s Come. That eclecticism also manifests itself in a cool karaoke scene in which the swoonsome Melton sings Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells; it’s the moment the two fall in love. Trips to the planetarium ensue, alongside bicycle accidents, family pressures, romantic gestures and yes, a ‘five-years-later’ finale to make sure we’re not denied a happy ending.
Second time around, I’ve learned to sit back and love the sheen of such a glossy, sun-drenched film, as sweet as a love-letter and yet willing to play off today’s on-going immigration concerns to make the simplest of humanistic points. Shahidi is a strong, empathetic presence, but it’s the way she spars with Melton that makes the picture; the sun burns brightly in this film, but it’s the stars that really illuminate the screen. This seems to be permanently viewable for free on the BBC iPlayer if you live in the UK.