“Half of It” review

Katrina Sanville, Arts Writer

According to some, we all have a soulmate—our other half. In Netflix’s movie “The Half of It,” the concept of soulmates is not as simple as it may seem, as three teenagers navigate their senior year of high school and search for their other half.

“The Half of It” centers around Ellie Chu, who lives with her immigrant father in a small (and fictional) Washington town called Squahamish. In order to make some extra cash to support her and her father, Ellie writes papers for the kids at her high school, prompting football player Paul Munsky to ask her to write a love letter for Aster Flores, a girl in their grade. Though Ellie insists on only writing one letter, the affair begins to evolve into a series of letters and texts, each more heartfelt than the last.

The movie was written, produced, and directed by a Taiwanese woman, with the two female leads being women of color. Leah Lewis, who played Ellie, is Chinese, and Alexxis Lemire, who played Aster, is half Puerto Rican (Lemire was also born and raised an hour from Boston, in Londonderry, N.H.).

 I really enjoyed the structure of this movie, as well as the characters. Quotes by famous philosophers and writers were used to signify different parts of the movie, and in turn parts of the characters’ lives. The characters, as well as the town they lived in, felt extremely realistic as well. Squahamish was often referred to as “Hellquahamish,” which felt like the perfect description of a run-down small town. The town only had two restaurants, a couple blue-collar businesses, and one church that everyone attended, which felt fairly accurate to the small-town life from what I am familiar with.

 As for the characters, they seemed realistic and normal, both in physical traits and in personalities. Paul is on the football team and works for his family’s butcher business, and dreams of making his “taco sausage” a mainstream dish, but he struggles with his words and with school. Ellie has great musical and writing skills but feels stuck in Squahamish in order to help her father, who doesn’t speak English well. Aster loves to paint, and may have feelings for Ellie, but due to guilt from the church her father is a deacon of, she chooses not to act on them. Besides their personalities, which are well rounded and developed, none of the characters are overwhelmingly beautiful or unattractive, as teen movies can portray these characters as. They all look like people I would see at a local high school, in any town, which was refreshing.

The family relationships in this movie had been realistic and comforting as well. Ellie and her dad shared a great bond, and this bond later carried over to Ellie’s dad and Paul. Paul’s mother reminded me of every Irish Catholic mom from Massachusetts, and Aster’s less-than picture-perfect relationship with her father was nice to see too.

I felt like the use of music was great as well. There isn’t much music, but when there was, it significantly added to the story, such as the classical music building and building while Ellie was on the phone, only to stop as soon as she and Aster bump into each other.  The ending felt optimistic, but not forcefully so, as these types of movies can often feel. No one ended up together, but there was a promise of Aster and Ellie possibly getting together, and the final shot was focused on Ellie and Paul, rather than the two relationships. The ending seemed to focus on the friendship that formed between Ellie and Paul, instead of the girl that drew them apart.

However, I did not enjoy everything about this movie. The pacing could be a bit slow at times, and the plot could be confusing as well. In addition to that, the minor conflict of the bullies who often referred to Ellie as “Chugga Chugga Chu Chu” and cut the piano strings before her performance in the talent show was never resolved beyond Ellie playing her guitar instead of piano in the talent show. Aster seemed okay with essentially being catfished by Ellie, and only got mildly upset instead of completely freaking out. I would have liked to see a scene about Ellie standing up for herself, or the bullies having to pay for destroying school property, as well as a bit more emotion from Aster besides slapping Paul in church and having that be it.

Overall, I enjoyed “The Half of It” and would watch it again. I would also recommend it to people looking to introduce themselves to LGBTQ+ media, without something as blatant as “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” or “Moonlight.” This movie was a fun, lighthearted comedy perfect for anyone in search of a different kind of romance movie, one where, like Ellie says in the beginning of the film, “no one gets what they want.”