Here’s Why Netflix’s ‘The Half Of It’ Is Our Current Obsession

It’s worth the watch for the ending alone.

On May 1st, Netflix dropped “The Half Of It,” a new movie from the incredible (and incredibly gay) mind of writer-director Alice Wu (“Saving Face”). The story follows less-than-popular high schooler Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), who runs a business writing essays for people at school to help her widower dad pay the bills. Ellie’s life starts to drastically change when Paul (Daniel Diemer) approaches her with the task of writing not an essay, but a love letter to Aster (Alexxis Lemire), the most beautiful and popular girl in school.

“The Half Of It” is a modern-day queer take on “Cyrano de Bergerac,” in which Ellie is harboring a secret love for Aster that only grows as she writes letters as Paul. And then when things start to happen IRL instead of on paper, it gets even tenser between the three of them. There are so many things to love about “The Half Of It,” so just to pique your interest, here are some of my favorites. Warning: spoilers ahead!

Secret Love

 

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A classic lesbian cinema trope is one character harboring a secret crush on another for whatever reason — maybe she’s straight, maybe she’s out of their league, maybe she’s popular. “The Half Of It” incorporates this plot line too, but instead of one character yearning for the other, there’s one character simply being intrigued by the other. It’s a fresh take on unrequited love, but it still hurts just as hard. Haven’t all us queer women been there before?

Stolen Glances

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Another sign of any great lesbian longing plot is stolen glances between the two characters, which is especially juicy if they’re the same characters with a secret love plot. The way that Ellie steals glances at Aster throughout “The Half Of It” felt so real that they reminded me of stealing glances at my straight-girl crushes in high school. Stuck in the bathroom, crossing paths in the hallway, and catching one another looking sad — their stolen glances know no bounds. Plus, even though Aster isn’t necessarily in love with Ellie (so we think), she glances back. Yes, please!

Gay Yearning

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Ellie has a crush on Aster from the very beginning of the movie, and we get to see it when they literally run into each other in the hallway (classic). As Ellie helps Aster pick up her books, she’s in awe that Aster would even talk to her — and not only that but Aster knows who she is. It’s the moment that any queer teen wants — acknowledgment from their secret crush — and it’s this moment that sets off the true yearning in Ellie. Now that her sights are set on someone who knows her (albeit someone she would never have a chance with), the real longing can begin. And oh, it does.

An Iconic Slap


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This one doesn’t really have to do with anything queer, but there is just such a perfect, out-of-nowhere slap that got me so good while I was watching this. The moment is so tense, so unpredictable, and then Aster slaps Paul! I won’t tell you why or what the scene was about, but she does it not in private, but in the company of their whole church. Seriously, this slap is just too iconic to not watch for.

A True, Honest Friendship

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Paul is kind of a simple-minded guy, while Ellie is extremely smart, but the way the pair meshes together is so natural. Ellie never makes fun of Paul for not being academically inclined, and Paul never makes fun of Ellie for having no social life. Instead, the two of them actually try to fit together like a puzzle, allowing their strengths to hold each other up rather than their weaknesses holding them both down. It’s a beautiful portrait of what real, honest, and loyal friendship can look like.

A Real, Actual Lesbian Kiss

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So many queer movies either don’t actually show us any physical intimacy or dive waaay deep into it. “The Half Of It,” however, gives us an honest look at a kiss between two high schoolers with feelings. They don’t try to over-sexualize it at all, and they also don’t downplay it as a mistake; Wu writes in a kiss that hits you right in the feels. You don’t expect it, but it makes sense in the scene, and it’s a perfect punctuation to the film’s plot.

A Happy Ending

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There is a happy ending in this movie, though it may not be the ending you expect. Everyone goes their own ways (some together, some apart) with a sense of hope and a promise of happiness, now or in the near future. It’s a really beautiful ending that ties up any loose ends and circles back to the ideas that rest at the heart of “The Half Of It”: the importance of friendship and how you choose who you love. It’s worth the watch for the ending alone.


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