The Second Sun, written by James Patrick Nelson and directed by Jennifer Gelfer, is a refreshingly old-school and crowd-pleasing romance. Although its bright-eye optimism can get to be a bit overwhelming at times, this film is a great reminder of the power of the force that unites us all.
Admittedly, the story of the movie is a bit far-fetched. The film is about two people, linkey by fate, who meet in a bar one night in post-WWII New York City and bond. However, if you are able to suspend your disbelief regarding the unlikelihood of these two characters encountering each other, then the movie ends up being a sweet little romance with a great message about hope.
The best part of this film is undeniably its dialogue. Nelson adapted this movie from his own play, and its connections to theatre are obvious because of the structure of the dialogue. The wittiness and quick pacing typical of theatre-style dialogue is conducive to a romance film like this, though, helping to form a fun dynamic between the two characters.
Both of the lead characters are definitely compelling, but with the movie’s short runtime, it is difficult to form a legitimate connection with them. Certain aspects of their backstory that are revealed later in the film make it even easier to sympathize with them, but these come too late to have any significant impact on the characterization. Had some of these reveals been made earlier, they may not have been as effective as plot devices, but would have been better as a whole.
The actors do a good job in their roles, and a majority of the movie ends up falling on their shoulders because of the very play-like aura. Eden Epstein and John Buffalo Mailer have great chemistry together and are able to really sell the relationship. Since a majority of the film features them bouncing lines off of each other, this is integral to the success of the movie.
A part of the reason why the actors’ sincerity is so important is that the film does feel a bit emotionally manipulative at times. Although the movie as a whole is ultimately compelling because we can get behind the romance and the characters, many of the more emotional moments feel unearned and sentimental. This is particularly problematic when the film results to new revelations in order to force conflict.
On a technical level, the movie is fine, but the visuals aren’t utilized to their full potential. The cinematic medium offers a few extra tools that live theatre doesn’t have, and yet Gelfer didn’t use them while adapting the film. For example, there are a few dream sequences which could have been made even more surreal through use of the visual style, but they seem like little more than what you could see on stage.
Even though it has a fair share of flaws, The Second Sun is ultimately an entertaining romance. It isn’t likely to make waves, but audiences who do see this movie will probably enjoy it quite a bit.
The Second Sun hits theaters and VOD on August 16.