BY: AMANDA GUARRAGI
The reason why many of us find comfort in coming of age films, is because it takes us to a place of mutual understanding for the teenage experience. There’s always a sense of nostalgia and moments that will have you reminiscing about your high school crushes. Navigating adolescence is hard enough as it is, but when life throws you curveballs at that age, it shapes you into a different person. The Half of It, written and directed by Alice Wu is a journey of love and self acceptance in the modern age of adolescence. She draws from literature, films and paintings to express the concept of love in all its forms.
The film centers around an introverted, highly intelligent, Asian American teenager, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) who is strapped for cash and tries to make some extra money, writing essays for her classmates. Majority of the school acknowledges that she is a strong writer, so one jock named Paul Musky (Daniel Diemer), plans to use her skills to write a love letter to his crush, Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). What started out as one love letter, in exchange for $50 to keep the power on at the Chu household, turns into weeks worth of letters and texts from Ellie, through Paul.
The other half of this story involves Ellie slowly realizing that she is falling for Aster and yearns for her affection. It’s a hidden romance that has subtle glances and an acknowledged unspoken bond that comes to fruition in the final act. The friendship that blooms between Ellie and Paul is not enough to hold the first half of this film because of the gimmick that was used to make a modern coming of age story interesting. The realization of Ellie’s identity took a backseat to Paul’s ploys to capture Asters heart and that’s what bothered me about this film. There aren’t enough films that put a lesbian romance at the forefront and it’s always this unrequited, forbidden love that somehow doesn’t have an outcome at the end of the film.
The pacing of the film is what I found the most challenging because everything but the dialogue was moving very slow and it felt like the scene couldn’t catch up to what the characters were saying. It felt extremely dull and unimportant at times with what they were trying to say about love. I felt the focus was more on discussing the feelings of love instead of expressing it through affection or tender moments. It did not resonate with me at all and the way a heterosexual friendship took the forefront in this really disappointed me. I am very tired of coming of age films casting the LGBTQ representation as secondary, when it should be at the forefront right now, as a standard love story, with no hardships and a happy ending.