Love tales, like individuals, are available in all method of shapes, sizes, and particulars. You won’t know that from the vast majority of romantic comedies and YA romances that saddle similar-looking lovebirds with acquainted hurdles en path to an inevitable union, however love is a difficult, multi-faceted endeavor for most individuals… and it isn’t at all times in regards to the romance. The Half of It understands that and tells a narrative in regards to the love between members of the family, mates, and the extra romantically inclined.
Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) is the lone Chinese language pupil at her highschool, and her father may simply be the one different Chinese language particular person of their small American city of Squahamish, WA. She’s a sensible teen who makes additional money on the facet writing papers for fellow college students, however that’s not her solely secret. Ellie’s additionally pining for considered one of her extra common classmates, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), who’s in a relationship with a stud named Trig (Wolfgang Novogratz). It’s a distress Ellie retains to herself, nevertheless it’s challenged when one other classmate, Paul (Daniel Diemer), reveals that not solely is he additionally enamored by Aster’s charms — however that he desires to pay Ellie to jot down her love letters.
Director/author Alice Wu — lastly returning to the display screen along with her sophomore movie a full sixteen years after releasing the improbable Saving Face (2004) — crafts a teenage riff on Cyrano de Bergerac and modifications up extra than simply the presence of a comically giant nostril. Ellie’s unavoidably stand-out function is her Chinese language ethnicity in an nearly completely white city, and her quest for love is moreover challenged as a lesbian in a reasonably conservative group. Wu saddles her movie’s hero additional by including a widowed father who Ellie can’t deliver herself to go away at the same time as considered one of her lecturers (Becky Ann Baker) encourages her in the direction of making use of to a school exterior of city. The Half of It turns into a love triangle of types with added depths all through, and the top outcome is among the smartest, warmest, and most affecting YA movies in years.
“In case you haven’t guessed, this isn’t a love story,” says Ellie in voice-over. “No less than not one the place anybody will get what they need.” Ellie loves Aster, Paul loves Aster, and Aster continues to be a piece in progress, and whereas different threads exist this grouping stays the main target. Love is messy, and nobody is ever assured a cheerful ending, however by means of beats each humorous and human we are able to’t assist however root for characters even figuring out their objectives are sometimes in competitors with one another.
Ellie makes do because the city’s sole Chinese language teen, and whereas she’s by no means bullied with cruelty in thoughts the small acts of harassment are nonetheless current. Wu finds methods to spin it positively, although, together with a scene the place Ellie goes to a classmate’s get together and is greeted with the legitimately welcoming yell of “The Chinese language lady got here!” There’s no sense of artificiality right here at the same time as Wu peppers Ellie’s every day life with atypical popular culture references together with films (from Wings of Need to His Lady Friday), music (from artists like Gordon Lightfoot and Chicago), and even philosophers (from Camus to Plato). Most teenagers don’t essentially know what they’re lacking, however Ellie’s sensible sufficient and hurting just a bit bit extra due to it, and Lewis delivers a compellingly conscious efficiency balancing confidence and ache to recognizable perfection.
Wu’s dedication to her characters extends past simply Ellie as each Aster and Paul really feel well-rounded and actual of their needs, efforts, and confusion. Aster begins falling for the particular person on the different finish of the letters (and later over an nameless texting app), and it’s sufficient to see her problem her personal present scenario. She’s the pastor’s daughter and anticipated to marry the favored Trig and begin a household of her personal, however which may not be what she desires. “I’m like lots of people,” she tells Ellie at one level, “which makes me nobody.” Paul is a dim-witted soccer participant, however his pursuit of Aster and time spent with Ellie see him rising too as his personal pursuits and efforts change for the higher. He reads books, he tries more durable, and a number of the movie’s super heat comes by means of in continuously silent scenes of Paul bonding over meals with Ellie’s father. They’re all lovely in several methods.
As a lot of the movie is fueled by the pursuit of romantic love, The Half of It champions one thing that’s each bit as necessary — the platonic love of nice mates. It’s not one thing we see a lot of in in any other case romantic comedies — My Finest Good friend’s Wedding ceremony (1997) could be the final one to really get it proper — and Wu’s movie nails its intricacies and pitfalls alike. The three navigate tough waters involving transactions, deceit, and make it or break it moments, however the journey proves each bit as necessary because the vacation spot.
The Half of It has fairly a bit extra on its thoughts than the anticipated teenage love story together with its friendships, its concepts about self-confidence, and even the wrestle that Ellie’s father faces relating to letting go of his daughter. The movie even touches on religion and non secular congregations, and whereas it teases a restrictive, close-minded actuality it additionally permits Ellie to disclose simply how lonely it’s being a loner who doesn’t consider in god. There’s nobody technique to stay a life, no singular motivation or sort of particular person to like, and the movie is aware of that data comes with damaged hearts and shattered goals — nevertheless it additionally is aware of that’s no purpose to cease loving or cease dreaming.