Diverting from the typical romance you would expect from a coming of age drama. The Half of It is based loosely on the French play Cyrano de Bergerac, told through the life of Chinese-American teen Ellie Chu as she navigates her sexuality, friendship and, inevitability, angst.
This is not the first time that Cyrano de Bergerac has been taken to the big screen and not the first time that Netflix has dabbled with this story. Sierra Burgess Is A Loser (2018) is similarly a modern retelling of the same story that does not meet the same critical acclaim as The Half Of It.
Ellie Chu, played by Leah Lewis, is an extremely introverted girl who stays under the radar and earns a hustle on the side by writing essays for classmates to support her widower Father, Edwin Chu. Chu starts the movie unwilling to rock the boat of the high-school social hierarchy, intent on staying in her small hometown despite being unhappy. This all changes when Paul Munsky, played by Daniel Diermer, asks for the unconventional – a love letter.
Munsky is the Himbo Next Door and endearing comedic relief of the film. For those that are not familiar, a Himbo is an attractive but not quick-minded male. A typically sweet but head empty type of guy. He comes into Chu’s life determined to win the heart of a girl he is so sure he is in love with but gets more than he bargained for.
We follow the unlikely duo throughout the movie as they discover more about each other and themselves. Similar to Love, Simon, Director Alice Wu has created a coming of age story for LGBTQ+ youth that touches on the very real topics of self love and identity struggles. The story carefully handles the sense of ‘otherness’ that POC children can feel in small towns not too dissimilar from the fictional town of Squahamish.
The Half Of It has all the components you would expect from a teen comedy-drama – tender moments, awkwardness and of course, the humor. The side characters bring a lot of the comedy, especially the unlikely friendship between Munsky and Mr Chu.
I always aim to avoid spoilers so I will only say that I agree wholeheartedly with one of the opening sentences:
‘This is not a love story or not one where anyone gets what they want.’
The Half Of It encompasses a feeling that you’ll find in cult favorites. This is a movie to watch on a rainy weekend. One that viewers may find comfort in and laugh with. One that I am sure I will come back to watch many more times.
Watch the trailer and let me know your reactions below.