”Another teen drama slash comedy from Netflix? I know how it is.” Well, this time you might be pleasantly surprised as The Half Of It is slightly a breath of fresh air in the genre. In only her second film and the first one in 15 years, director/writer Alice Wu seems to be a bit tired of the same old and writes a dreamscape-like coming-of-age film about high school senior Ellie Chu (played by Leah Lewis) who’s a hired writer in her own right with school essays and now love letters. As a film it feels original enough to stand out.
It does a good job avoiding twists and turns you might expect since it delves into themes of sexuality, emotional maturity and religious views. In the beginning Ellie is hired by jock Paul (Daniel Diemer) to write to his crush Aster (Alexxis Lemire) but it turns into struggling with friendship and loyalty as she also has feelings for Aster. Movies of late in the genre haven’t had this kind of take, often they are played as dumb high school romances. Lewis provides Ellie a distinct personality that’s been missing also lately, the character’s bond with her dad is especially endearing. A lot of the communication in the film is done through texts which are actually quite nicely designed into the visuals.
It’s probably more often the case than not that the high schoolers end up having a tendency to talk like screenwriters and it happens with The Half Of It. Way they speak to each other and to themselves sounds off and takes the effect of the perspective down a bit. One of the most obvious examples is a scene at the end in a holy space that seems more like a theatre play rather than a part of this film. And something Netflix has become pretty known for, casting can be atrocious at times and while this isn’t the worst case scenario, the ”kids” are just way too old to casually be studying algebra.
Smileys: Originality, Leah Lewis, graphic design
Frowneys: Dialogue, casting
Hopefully the next one doesn’t take 15 years, considering how fresh this felt.