Do you believe in destiny?
If so, it’ll be a lot easier for you to believe in The Second Sun.
An evocative, heart-on-its-sleeve drama set in post-World War II New York City, The Second Sun focuses (almost exclusively) on two lost souls who, inevitably, find each other one fateful night.
After all, they’re bashert, the Yiddish word that means “soulmate,” “meant to be” and … well, you get the idea.
It’s impossible not to, given The Second Sun’s quietly relentless narrative and undercurrent of dreamy romanticism.
The Second Sun sets a nostalgic tone as soon as the opening credits (vintage New York photographs) roll.
When they’re through, the movie shifts from black-and-white to color (almost like Dorothy awakening in Oz) and introduces us to Max (John Buffalo Mailer, son of novelist Norman Mailer), proprietor of a cozy neighborhood bakery and cafe.
An intriguing man of contrasts — old-world charm, Noo Yawk accent — Max oversees his little corner of the world with grace and generosity, treating every day, and every customer, as special.
Until a special customer — a beguiling brunette named Joy (Eden Epstein) — comes in for a slice of pie, triggering Max’s dreams of dancing through life with one particular partner.
Joy doesn’t always feel like dancing. But talking — now you’re talking. Which the two of them do, non-stop, after Joy walks into Max’s favorite watering hole one chilly night.
Their shared conversation reveals both of them to be among the walking wounded. World War II may be over, but its excruciating impact isn’t.
While Max determinedly pushes away the darkness, Joy can’t help but succumb to the sorrow. Together, they might strike a balance. (Along with the undeniable sparks holding them both softly spellbound.)
Director Jennifer Gelfer guides their delicate duet with a sensitive hand, establishing an appropriately swoony mood while maintaining the story’s momentum.
James Patrick Nelson’s screenplay may be based on a true incident, but it doesn’t always ring true.
For one thing: the dialogue’s literary, poetic imagery seldom resembles credible conversation.
For another: there’s a razor-thin but unmistakable line that separates sentiment from sentimentality, and The Second Sun can’t always tell the difference between the two.
Sometimes you find a genuinely moving portrait of two engaging characters yearning for comfort and connection.
And sometimes you get a movie so busy plucking your heartstrings it forgets to touch your heart.