The Half of It: Netflix Film Review

The Half of It

If you need a film to get you out of the self-isolation slump, I recommend The Half of It, a lovely teen coming-of-age comedy that is sure to warm your heart and put a smile on your face.

Leah Lewis stars as Ellie Chu, a smart and shy Chinese-American high school student living in the remote town of Squahamish. She makes extra money by writing homework for certain students, and one day she is approached by Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), who asks her to write love letters on his behalf to win over Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), but when she agrees to the task, she doesn’t expect become his friend or fall for his crush.

The Half of It, written and directed by Alice Wu, is just so lovely. I loved watching Ellie’s friendship with Paul blossom and seeing them go from being neighbours and mere acquaintances to fully-fledged friends who stick up for one another and have each other’s backs. Lewis and Diemer are such likeable leads, their chemistry is great, and their friendship feels genuine.

The Half of It deserves praise for its representation. It is so rare for a high school-set romantic comedy-drama to have an Asian lead, let alone have scenes in which she speaks Chinese. Ellie’s relationship with her father Edwin (Collin Chou) – an engineer who has been relegated to a station manager role due to his poor English – is also very heartwarming and it was refreshing to see these exchanges be in their native language. I mean, it makes sense, but hardly any mainstream Western films do that.

However, the LGBTQ content in this film isn’t as obvious as I expected it to be. Sure, it becomes much more clear in the third act, but for a long time, it seems like Ellie is simply texting and writing letters to Aster on Paul’s behalf rather than because she has feelings of her own. However, it is obvious that Ellie has a deeper connection with Aster than the inarticulate Paul does and that they make more sense to be together on an intellectual level. It also bothered me how chill the film was about Aster going on dates and having feelings for Paul while still being with her longtime boyfriend Trig (Wolfgang Novogratz), even if he is a total douche.

I loved the characters, the setting and the concept of The Half of It but I don’t think it completely delivered upon its potential. I loved where the story was going so I was ultimately disappointed by the weak and uneven conclusion. However, I’d still recommend The Half of It if you need cheering up as it is a heartfelt, feel-good film with two loveable leads and a really cute story.

Streaming on Netflix from Friday 1st May 

Rating: 3/5


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