Ellie is created with particularly fine lines, strokes that paint a complex person. She’s characterized by her experience as being “other,” as an Asian-American immigrant in a predominantly white town, an atheist in a church community, a girl who is in love with another girl. These subjects are explored carefully, and there is no right answer to anything. Most of the moments where Ellie grows are quiet and simple, without the cinematic flair of teenage romcoms.
The film uses its created environment well, the town framing most of their interactions, as we see Ellie and Paul again and again in the same places, each layer of the story adding another dimension to Squahamish. Despite the repetition, the cinematography is quite beautiful at times; there’s the scene where Aster and Ellie swim in the groves, talking about intangibly vast things as they float in the water, light and trees all around them.
The second half of the movie veers into more complex character interactions. While the setup of the first half builds steady momentum, the denouement still has to tie together issues that are only brought up in the latter half. The ending has mixed pacing as a result of this, with some plot points that are resolved in a timeframe that feels natural, while others come on more suddenly.
Towards the end, there’s a tonal switch too, where the film ultimately decides it’s not about “getting the girl,” and while romance is important in The Half of It, the movie becomes more about the seduction of a happier life, the romancing of the start of their adulthood. Their unrequited desires move beyond an individual and towards the world and their futures.
The Half of It encapsulates the longing for another half, whether it’s a person, or a dream, or a life. Despite the fine details added to the characters and their surroundings, the film catches the universal feeling of the uncertainty in those seconds before you reach out and make your move into the world you’d envisioned for yourself.
Check out The Half of It on Netflix today.