How 'The Half of It' Portrays Love

The Netflix film The Half of It is a comedy-drama written and directed by Alice Wu. It premiered on Netflix in May 1, 2020, and it narrates the story of how teenager Ellie Chu gets mixed up into a scheme to increase her classmate’s chances of enamoring popular girl Aster Flores in their small town of Squahamish. 

That said, this is your official spoiler warning! If you have not watched this film, you really should go and do it before reading this, not only because I’m going to spoil it, but because it’s an amazing film and you should watch it. It presents the struggles of growing up and defining yourself in a world that may not always accept you, and most importantly, letting us know that love is complicated.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The film carries the tag-line “A different kind of love story” and it full-heartedly means it. Initially, the movie’s set-up appears to be a cliché romantic story where the guy, named Paul, trying to get the popular girl realizes at the last minute that his true loveーaka the nerdy girlーwas in front of him all along. Instead of strictly adhering to trope, The Half of It twists it by showing us Ellie’s complex reality and her actually being interested in the popular girl, Aster, herself. When Ellie poses as Paul through text conversations with Aster, the audience sees how much Ellie genuinely likes Aster; it’s not because she’s just popular and pretty either, but because she’s so much more than that. The story goes into depth with their portrayals of love and never presents it as a shallow solution to a person’s problems. While we’re discussing the complexity of the plot, we can take a second to analyze the diversity of the characters.

Paul, the classmate who acquired Ellie’s help, doesn’t do it because he just wants to be with someone popular, but because he genuinely thinks he’s in love with Aster. Throughout the whole film, he’s a sweet and understanding guy that, although he might be a bit dense, cares for those around him and puts their wellbeing over his own. As the film progresses, he even accepts that he doesn’t actually love Aster, but that he was just infatuated with her looks. 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Ellie, on the other hand, does her best to repress her feelings for Aster. Living in a small town and having no one to really communicate with, she goes through the struggles of being a teenager alone, to the point of becoming extremely reserved. Throughout the film, Ellie learns to finally accept herself, let her talents shine through, and how important it is to have a true friend.

Aster, Ellie’s love interest, is also given great character development. She isn’t just seen as the pretty flower that’s perfect in every way, but as a human being who’s confused with her place in the world, and who experiences real struggles. Aster is portrayed as a nice and understanding person who would probably be a free spirit if her family didn’t rule over her life in every possible way. Soon, she realizes that she should follow and believe in what she truly wants, even if she isn’t sure what that means yet.


Photo via @netflixfilm

The whole film basically defies the typical rom-com formula since the boy does not end up with any of the girls, and each main character takes their own individual path by the film’s end. Paul realizes that not all women have to be his love interest, or even have to be interested in men so that they can be a part of his life. On the other hand, Ellie befriends Paul and learns that there is nothing wrong with being her true self, and Aster doesn’t let relationships define her as a person. Love is not portrayed to be this one monolith of a perfect thing, but instead a bunch of messy things that may be worth being brave for.

In the last minutes of The Half of It, Ellie defines what love is.This scene is pivotal because it summarizes the whole message of the film. Love isn’t simply about finding your other half, or being with someone no matter what. It isn’t even something that makes the whole world better. Love is a complex thing that no one can really figure out, yet can come through in many forms, like your family, your friends, your hobbies, and yourself. One does not need to have a romantic relationship to feel love, and one should never be defined by who may or may not love them; love is just another part of life that we all go through. At the end of the day, love is just love, and we shouldn’t try to adhere it to any fixed labels or try to find it to make our lives better.