The Half of It

Free Members-Only Screening: The Half of It - Film Independent

The Half of It is a deeply endearing teen rom-com that remains charming even when it struggles to break free of the timeworn trappings of its genre.

Ellie Chu (Played by Leah Lewis) is a high school senior, who lives with her father by the railroad tracks in the fictional town of Squahamish. She makes money doing various assignments for her classmates in exchange for money. She is taken aback when classmate Paul Munsky (Played by Daniel Diemer) asks her to write a love letter to the girl of his dreams, Aster Flores (Played by Alexxis Lemire), who he’s fallen in love with. An unusual request that takes her out of her comfort zone, but with further convincing and negotiations for her price, she caves. From there, Chu coaches Munsky through various dates and they become friends, all while she conceals her true romantic feelings for the object of Paul’s affection. 

The Half of It inverts the way a love triangle operates. A love triangle is something that you’ll see often in films from this genre, but rarely does it live up to the hype. It often feels like an unnecessarily tedious wait for everything to come to a head and everyone’s true feelings to come to light, but The Half of It does something clever by pairing two of the triangle’s residents and building a friendship between them.  Ellie and Paul are not competitors vying for one person’s love, but two friends who bring out the best in each other and support one another in their endeavors. I enjoyed being in the company of these characters and that’s very much to the credit of the performances from Leah Lewis and Daniel Diemer, both very charming and two actors I think we’ll be seeing more of in the future. 

This film is just as much a coming of age story as it is a romantic comedy. From the opening scene, the film’s themes are established through a recounting of a Greek myth. The Half of It, at its core is about people finding their “other half.” even if that’s within themselves. Ellie Chu goes on a moving journey in this film, gaining confidence in who she is and learns the value of being herself. The Half of It, for all its strengths, struggles to avoid the conventions of the teen comedy. It views much of its characters very one-dimensionally. It gets close to feeling like something of a reinvention, but it’s the often stereotypical and trite depictions of these different types of people Ellie encounters that holds it back from doing so.

Many of Netflix’s other comedies directed towards this film’s demographic often feel lazy or sloppily put together. Director Alice Wu’s subtle storytelling and visual dynamism put her a step above her teen film filmmaker contemporaries. You can clearly see Wu’s passion in the way this film is presented and the story being told and you will feel like you’re watching something Wu put her heart and soul into.

The Half of It arrives on Netflix May 1st 

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