A GenZ teen film that I can re-watch several times.
When a book smart, but short on cash, Ellie Chu decides to help a jock win over his crush, she doesn’t expect to fall for his crush. In the Half of It, Ellie is a modern-day shy-teenage-girl. Instead of having toilet paper stuck to her shoe or being constantly teased, Ellie keeps to herself and occasionally gets called “choo-choo.” As the only Chinese-American girl in her town, Ellie stands out like a sore thumb. But, she can blend into a crowd with no questions asked. Although Ellie enjoys writing and keeping to herself, the audience can tell something is missing in her life. When Paul asks Ellie for her help to win over Aster, Ellie learns the importance of letting people in.
For those who want no spoilers, then stop reading now.
Hi, those who’ve decided to stay. I usually don’t get into spoilers when reviewing, but this movie had so much I wanted to discuss.
Small Town, Small Dreams.
Although Ellie’s school is large, she lives in quite a small town called Squahamish. The closest Chinese grocery store is about a 3-hour bike ride from her home. Ellie’s father came to Squahamish as an engineer. After expecting to be promoted quickly then move to another area, Mr. Chu became stuck in his mediocre job solely due to his accent. Ellie immediately matures to the commander-and-chief of her house. She not only takes care of the house bills but also her college applications. Forced to grow up quickly, Ellie doesn’t have time to think about her mother’s death nor normal teenage problems. Everything for her revolves being in Squahamish. Ellie even applies to a local college because she can’t affords to think about her dreams. Also, her talent allows her to run a side business of writing and editing other students’ papers. Although her teacher knows that Ellie does this, she never rats on Ellie because she enjoys her writing so much. When her teacher encourages her to apply to colleges outside Squahamish, Ellie hesitates due to her home responsibilities. While Ellie keeps herself in a bubble, she allows herself to dream small.
Not Romantic, But Friendship.
Throughout the film, Ellie realizes being fine with loneliness doesn’t mean she’s happy. At home, she watches old movies with her father while doing her homework. During school, she works on her homework or practices for the school talent show. After school, she works at the train station in a small booth where Ellie resides with her thoughts. It isn’t until Paul enters her life where Ellie learns about happiness.
Her friendship with Paul teaches Ellie the importance of confiding in others, being respected, and embracing yourself. Their friendship sparks when Paul hires Ellie to write a love letter to Aster. Although Ellie had never admitted out loud, it’s clear from the beginning of the movie that Ellie has a crush on Aster. Unfortunately, Ellie keeps her sexuality to herself due to fear. However, after writing and messaging Aster on Paul’s behalf, Ellie begins to fall in love. Then, Aster begins to fall in love with Ellie. Their conversations are honest. If Aster and Ellie did get together, their relationship simply wouldn’t be “couple goals on Instagram.” Rather, it would be a beautiful relationship based on trust and friendship. For example, when Aster and Ellie hangout, their chemistry sparkles. It’s not just physical attraction but also a deep emotional connection. Everything from their favorite hobbies to their deepest secrets is revealed in one interaction with another.
Moreover, Paul and Ellie bring out the best in each other. He encourages her to be brave while Ellie inspires him to be a better football player. Also, she teaches Paul to come out of his shell. Rather, to not be nervous when he speaks his mind. Paul gets mad when people call Ellie “choo-choo.” He cheers Ellie on at the talent show, then is filled with hope when Ellie shows up to his football games. Their scenes remind the audience about intimacy in friendship.
Because Paul grew up in a small conservative town, he mistakes Ellie’s admiration for Aster as “good writing.” When he does find out Ellie’s true feelings, Paul reacts negatively. Immediately Paul calls Ellie’s love a sin. But, after a few moments, Paul begins to research homosexuality. After arming himself with knowledge and reflecting on his friendship with her, Paul stands by Ellie. In fact, their friendship deepens after this revelation. It’s a sweet, realistic moment between friends. However, Paul’s love for Ellie shines through when Mr. Chu claims he knows his daughter very well. After hearing Mr. Chu speak about his daughter, Paul chimes in to calmly say, “you don’t know her at all.” Mr. Chu doesn’t know the truth about Ellie’s sexuality and Paul doesn’t reveal it. Instead, he reminds Mr. Chu that Ellie is strong, determined, and very intelligent.
In A Nutshell.
Ellie’s journey is emotionally moving. When she kisses Aster, you will scream with joy. When she mails Paul’s taco-sausage recipes to local restaurants, you want a friend like her. When Ellie cries as she leaves for college, like Paul, you want to chase after her to tell everything will be okay. If you need a smart, simple, yet moving short-ish movie to watch, then I recommend the Half of It written and directed by Alice Wu.