The Half of It

Leah Lewis in 'The Half Of It.' (KC Bailey/Netflix)
Leah Lewis in 'The Half Of It.' (KC Bailey/Netflix)


5/5 Stars


When smart but cash-strapped teen Ellie Chu agrees to write a love letter for a jock, she doesn't expect to become his friend - or fall for his crush.


In the early 2000s, I was a teenager, constantly searching the internet for any form of queer content. My hopes of seeing it on M-Net were about slim to none and only slightly increased after 22:00.

I was young, innocent and acutely aware that I was different, but there was nothing that I identified within pop culture or the books at the school library or anywhere really. Except for one website I visited that told me when a movie with the slightest hint of queerness was released. This was my daily refuge.

I would wait until everyone else was out for the day and then visit it, quickly and if I heard anyone coming, I would immediately close the tab. On one of these visits, I read about a movie called Saving Face. It was funny, honest and didn’t feature two straight white people falling in love. I never got to see it in a cinema or talk to anyone about it because I didn’t want anyone to know how much I needed to see queer people on screen to figure myself out.

Cut to many years later and the brilliant filmmaker, Alice Wu, behind that pivotal moment in my life is back with a movie called The Half Of It. Led by the brilliant Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu, the film takes place in a rainy small town called Squahamish. Ellie is where I was emotionally all those years ago when I first saw Saving Face.

Intellectually though she is one of the most advanced kids in her grade, and she helps everyone find the right words to write in their essays to get top marks. So much so that when a lanky, awkward boy named Paul Munsky (played by Daniel Diemer) wants to pen a letter declaring his affection to the prettiest girl in school, Aster Flores (played by Alexxis Lemire), he turns to Ellie with an offering of cash he’s saved up. Ellie says yes because she is paying the bills in her household and using all her coins to literally keep the lights on.

From there, the movie tells the story of what we do for love. Both what we do for the people we love and what we let go of, for love. I think a lot of people think all romantic comedies are the story of one person falling in love with someone in the way Harry fell in love with Sally. Or even in the way that Peter and Lara Jean fell in love with each other, but this movie offers something different. But the reality is that you can fall in platonic love just as easily and it can change your life just as much.

A friend who you love can let you down just as much as a romantic partner can and it can be just as devastating. Love takes many forms and runs in many different directions, just like water.

There’s a certain kind of heartache to a love like that which I haven’t seen on screen before and Alice Wu, who also wrote the screenplay, brings it to life in a moving way that I found myself in awe of. Because it was light and dark and silly, it had longing and whimsy and everything I wanted and needed.

For a moment, The Half of It took me back to when I was a teenager and figuring myself out. For a short while, I was lost in this movie, and it was a wonderful feeling. To be totally enveloped by it and not distracted by my phone or sanitising my groceries while I watched or trying to do sums to make my money last to the end of the month.

I was just having a good time with Ellie Chu, who I could really see myself in and wanted to eat braised pork over rice with.

I won’t be the only one to tell you this, but I have to say it. Go watch The Half of It and then watch it again. You’ll fall in love with it as much as I did and maybe it will become your favourite movie of the year too.



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