‘The Half of It’ isn’t a typical teen movie


Left to right: Leah Lewis stars as Ellie Chu, who begins writing love letters for a classmate, Paul Munsky, played by Daniel Diemer, to send to his dream girl. Courtesy of Netflix

Over the years Netflix has built a reputation for producing teen romances and coming-of-age films — some that I love, and some that make me feel a little less than inspired, like Noah Centineo’s entire filmography. Among the new releases for May is “The Half of It,” a refreshing and sweet perspective of young romance.

Written and directed by Alice Wu, “The Half of It” is much more than a teen romance. The film is about high schooler Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), who begins writing love letters for a classmate, Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), to send to his dream girl, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). However, when Ellie starts to develop feelings for Aster, things complicate, especially in the small conservative town of Suquamish, Washington.

The film is promoted as “a different kind of love story” in the way that Ellie and her classmate, Paul, whom she is writing the letters for, begin a friendship of their own. This is how the film becomes less about finding your “other half” but more about friendships that help shape someone into the person they want to be.

Wu incorporates well the story of so many immigrant families living in the U.S. 

Ellie lives with her dad, who makes the move to Washington to get a job in engineering. He is unable to, despite having a Ph.D. from China. It’s this element of the story that adds yet another layer to the “teen romance”, although the film is more of a story about friendship and self-love. This aspect is one that Wu shares is inspired by her parents who immigrated from Taiwan.

There are some small cliches and areas that seem repetitive especially in dialogue. Without spoiling too much, there are a few moments where Ellie’s dialogue feels unnatural and too polished for a high schooler, but this doesn’t damage the meaning of the story.

Besides repetitiveness in dialogue and interesting monologues, “The Half of It” is a film that truly breaks the mold of what a coming-of-age story should look like. Not only does it focus on a Chinese-American girl coming to terms with her sexuality, but it redefines what it means to love. 

We often forget that love can be platonic and internal, in the form of self-love. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a fresh take on the “teen movie” genre and anyone who needs to be exposed to an intersectional perspective of love and all its forms.

Rating: 3.5/5

Danielle Kessler can be reached at [email protected] or @reserv0irpups on Twitter.