May 1 brought many new Netflix originals, as it does every month, including Alice Wu’s The Half of It. The film follows Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), an introverted intellectual who often writes other students’ papers for money. Chu’s life has been humdrum to say the least, as she typically keeps to herself and works for her dad at the train station after riding her bike to and from school. However, football player Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) comes to Chu with a task that will decisively change the remainder of her senior year and life.
The task? To write a single love letter to the exquisitely fascinating Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). The problem? Ellie is in love with her, too. Although Ellie was only supposed to write a single letter to Aster, she finds herself lured into Aster’s deepest thoughts and Paul’s friendship.
Throughout, Ellie battles with her conscience, going back and forth between wanting to continue communicating with Aster and knowing she is lying and being deceptive. Nevertheless, Ellie persists, as she yearns to unveil Aster’s true self. Surprisingly, the two have a lot in common. But, as viewers, we know that even if their souls seem compatible, their identities ultimately are not.
Aside from the letters, a budding relationship emerges between Paul and Ellie. Some viewers may even find themselves rooting for Paul and Ellie to end up together, the classic friendship turned romance, but this is 2020, and the nerdy girl cannot simply change her sexuality so that viewers get their simple, clean, happy ending.
In fact, there is no happy ending in terms of the guy getting the girl or, in this case, the girl getting the girl. Ellie told viewers at the beginning, “In case you haven’t guessed, this is not a love story. Or not one where anyone gets what they want.” Yet, there is a lot to be taken away from the film.
Overall, the characters are able to watch both Ellie and Paul develop as characters. For Ellie, it means progressing from a quiet teen into someone who finds herself connecting with not one, but two, people her age — which, for Ellie, is rare. Many young adults alike can relate to feeling as if they don’t have a place amid their demographics, yet end up finding the few people who make everything fall into place. The two people for Ellie are Aster and, more importantly, Paul, who encourages her to stop holding herself back from opportunity and greatness.
As for Paul, he learns that love can look very different from the normal, beautiful girl and good-looking guy. For once, this film doesn’t revolve around two beautifully flawed individuals, but instead, many flawed and convincing characters who love each other in different ways.
Paul comes to the realization that love is unconditional and not what a small town, like the fictional one he lives in — Squahammish — believes it to be, which is what all viewers should take away from the forthright, sincere and pleasurable film.