Shy and smart student Ellie Chu lives in the quiet town of Squahamish where she earns money on the side ghost-writing essays for her classmates at the local high school. Her life takes a different turn when sweet and kind-hearted jock Paul Munsky recruits her to write a letter to Aster Flores, the latter not realizing that Ellie may also be kind of be into her.
Watch it if you:
Are a fan of My Fair Lady, the classic Cyrano de Bergerac story or any coming-of-age dramedies and comedies, especially the talkies. The easiest to refer here to would also be To All The Boys I Loved Before, except that the exchanges are deeper and more mature than the former.
What I think:
The Half of It proposes a thesis. It’s that the difference between a good painting and a great painting are five strokes, but to figure out the five strokes is an ordeal in itself. I’d like to think however that the five strokes pertained to love in this intimate portrait of a film, which occasionally traded its muted undertones for bold breakthroughs of the subject . Director Alice Wu ventures into the coming-of-age genre as the subject of her sophomore film and champions the beauty of a shared amity in connections.
What I liked about the film the portrayal of love in five different strokes: First, the romantic kind of love that Ellie and Paul had for Aster at varying tiers, from Paul’s simple reason of ”She’s pretty” to Ellie’s “She has five different voices.” The second was the platonic friendship Paul and Ellie shared while sporting gender-bent versions of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, respectively (the conversation over ping-pong was one to watch). Love as pain was the third portrayed by Ellie’s dad, who spoke in the only language he knew how to express his forlornness: Mandarin. Familial love is the fourth stroke, both in lack and in fullness. Self-love capped the fifth, addressed in both character growth and evolution.
Ellie, in her spontaneous outburst at the church, contests the famous biblical passage on love. She says, “Love isn’t patient or kind or humble. Love is messy and horrible and selfish… and bold. It’s not finding your perfect half, it’s the trying and reaching and failing. Love is willing to ruin a good painting for a great one.” Indeed, love is a paradox, and that’s not even ‘the half of it.’
The Half of It is now streaming on Netflix. Watch it here.