This is probably the first film that I am writing a short review for. I do not believe that I am as passionate as some of my contemporaries when it comes to movies that I’ll be called a “cinephile.” However, once in a while, there comes a movie that goes against the conventional norms of its genre. In this regard, the movie under discussion deserves a note.
Breaking away from the teenage rom-com that is abundantly available on Netflix, The Half of It does a brilliant job in utilizing an overused plot and transforming it into something beautiful and unique. The movie revolves around an academically bright and shy Asian American teen Ellie Chu who agrees to help a coy yet nervous schoolmate Paul Munsky in wooing his crush Alexis Flores by corresponding with the latter on the former’s behalf. What starts as a one-time thing ends in the development of intimate, meaningful bonds as the film progresses. There are bits and bobs of every emotion in the movie. It makes the viewer happy, gloomy, laughs, and so on.
The theme of the film is primarily based around the ideas of teenage queerness and sexuality. Using brilliant story-telling, it continues to echo a sense of longing throughout the film: a longing to be understood, a longing for identity and expression, and a longing for your other ‘Half’. There are other reasons that make this film worth watching. Using careful direction, the motifs used in the film speak volumes and remain with the viewer. An example of the same is the use of letters: a quintessential item of ‘old-school’ romance, while writing to loved ones in the modern age has practically vanished. But, in the film, initial communication via letters make the story riveting.
I just have two personal reservations about the film. Firstly, the characters portray certain stereotypes about their respective roles. The portrayal of Ellie as some Asian wonder kid seems a bit overdone. The fact that she’s academically smart, socially awkward, plays an instrument, and is a good support system to her dad is a bit overused character sketch. As for Flores, she is your typical popular and pretty girl who doesn’t have any real friends. She is animated by off-beat influences like Abstract Art and British Literature which no one in her social circle seems to be interested in, thus making her long for her true, understanding companion. My second qualm in the film relates to its ending. It feels a bit out of place and downright weird. As the film wraps up, the focus shifts from Ellie to her co-passengers which seems a bit inexplicable. (Spoiler Alert) I also cannot understand why did they have to recreate ‘that’ quintessential Bollywood romantic scene which Ellie so despised.
Barring these shortcomings, the film was a delightful experience in the lockdown. Anyone who wishes to spend an hour and a half on some teen-romance should watch it.
Image Source – Netflix