A shy, introverted, Chinese-American, straight-A student finds herself helping the school jock woo the girl they both secretly love. In the process, each teaches the other about the nature of love as they find connection in the most unlikely of places.
Movie Rated: 13+
What’s The Story About?
Set in a rural town of Squahamish, The Half Of It tells the story of a shy and lonely teenager Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), who makes extra-cash by writing essays for her fellow students in high school. One day, she’s approached by Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), a school jock, to help him write a love letter meant for their classmate, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). Although Ellie agrees to write the letter reluctantly, she finds herself drawn to Aster as the trio try to express their true feelings for each other. The rest of the story is about whether Aster reciprocates Paul’s feelings and how does Ellie come to terms with her own desires.
The Half Of It is about unrequited love and how love is often messy and bold, and the story finds its perfect match in Leah Lewis. Ellie Chu is a nerd, who’s quite knowledgeable in English literature, which captures her teacher’s attention and the latter encourages her to apply for college. However, she finds herself at the crossroads when she falls in love with her classmate Aster. As Ellie, Leah makes her performance look effortless and is bang on as the socially awkward teenager, whose Chinese identity makes her stand apart. Then, there’s Daniel Diemer, who fills his character Paul Munsky with a lot of small-town charm that’ll win you over. Unlike the cliched portrayal of football players in high school, The Half Of It’s Paul Munsky isn’t a bully, and Daniel makes the character look quite grounded and kind. Alexxis Lemire delivers a nuanced performance in her role as Aster, who’s often confused about her own feelings.
Written and directed by Alice Wu, The Half Of It differentiates itself from umpteen other high school dramas by focusing on the life of a Chinese-American student, Ellie Chu. Her experiences as an immigrant in a small town, where she’s the only one who’s perceived to be different, shapes her personality to an extent that she seeks refuge in books and not friends. Her interaction with her classmates is often based on some form of transaction; however, she opens up quite a lot to Paul, and her heart skips a beat when she thinks about Aster. The love triangle is a tried and tested formula; however, Alice Wu turns this story into a charming tale of three people trying to find themselves. Whether it’s Paul’s reason to stay back in the sleepy town or how Ellie’s family ended up there, The Half Of It feels quite personal and an ode to people who are often invisible in mainstream cinema. There’s a scene in the middle of the film where Ellie and Aster find themselves all alone, in the middle of a forest, and when they open up to each other, their yearning for love is quite evident. This is also a film which kind of blurs the lines between friendship and romance, and at one point, it becomes a search for a companion who understands you. For Ellie and Aster, it’s their love for philosophy and literature that brings them together; but the friendship between Paul and Ellie, where they talk about sausages, growing up in a small town, and their own aspirations, that’s the soul of the film. Amidst all this, Ellie Chu comes to terms with her own feelings and her search for true love is beautifully portrayed. Full credit to Alice Wu for making all this feel so charming.
Music & other departments:
The background score of The Half Of It is quite understated as is its cinematography. Since the story is set in a small town where nothing really happens, the focus is almost always on the three characters and how they struggle to express their feelings for each other. More than anything, it’s Alice Wu’s writing that keeps the film together.
The love story in The Half Of It is quite charming and a lot of conversations between the three lead actors will bring a smile on your face. The queer romance is beautifully handled, and Ellie’s one-sided romance leaves a long-lasting impression. Every time she looks at Aster or thinks about her, Ellie makes you root for her.
The film falters to an extent in its final stretch when it tries to find a closure to what the character truly wants. The climax, in particular, where the three characters open up to each other could have been better handled in a better way. Moreover, the story doesn’t quite focus as much on what Aster goes through towards the end, especially after she seemingly takes a liking to Ellie.
Do I recommend it?
The Half Of It is a charming little film about people who are confused about what they want. Although it follows the template of a teen romance genre, it encompasses a lot of warmth and leaves you with a happy feeling.