“The Half Of It” Explores What it Means to Love

“Love is patient. Love is Kind. It does not envy. It does not boast …” 

Chances are, we’ve all heard some version of this verse from Corinthians at one point or another in our lives. For many, it’s become a mantra for people hoping to understand what it means to be in love. But, there is not only one way to love and Netflix’s new original film “The Half Of It” challenges this common belief through high schoolers Ellie Chu, Paul Munsky and Aster Flores. 

When Paul [Daniel Diemer] seeks out Ellie’s [Leah Lewis] help writing a love letter to Aster [Alexxis Lemire], the most popular girl in school, the three become tangled in an unconventional love triangle. As Paul and Aster exchange love letters and instant messages to each other, via Ellie, the high schoolers discover that there are no boundaries when it comes to how you love or who you can love. 

Ellie, a first-generation immigrant from China, has spent the majority of her life in small-town Squahamish keeping her head down, caring for her widower father and finding comfort in not fitting in. “The good thing about being different is that no one expects you to be like them,” she says. 

Early in the film, Paul enlists Ellie’s help with writing a love letter to Aster, knowing that where he lacks with eloquent verbiage Ellie excels. Along the way, they explore what it actually means to be in love as a teenager: 

“Love makes you screwy.” — Paul Munsky

As Paul so eloquently states, love makes you crazy. It makes you tongue-tied and nervous. It makes you excited and anxious. But above all, it makes you feel

“If love isn’t the effort you put in, then what is it?” — Ellie Chu

Later in the film, when Ellie asks what Munsky loves about Aster, Ellie finds herself drifting onto her own tangent about what she loves about Flores instead. Upon realization of her unintentionally proclamation, Ellie backtracks and points out how hard Munsky has been working to get to know Flores, despite how nervous he gets around her. According to Ellie, love is also the lengths you will go to for the betterment of your partner.    

Love is messy and horrible and selfish … and bold. It’s not finding your perfect half, it’s the trying and reaching and failing. Love is being willing to ruin your good painting for the chance at a great one.” — Ellie Chu

As the film nears its end and Flores learns that Ellie was the one behind the romantic love letters and texts, Ellie presents a contradictory definition to love. Love isn’t always patient and kind and perfect, in fact the best thing about love is that it’s not perfect. It has its challenges and it presents risks, but as Ellie says, love is willing to take the risk of a comfortable relationship for even just the chance at a great one. 

Director Alice Wu’s shining moment, though, is undoubtedly Paul’s line just before Ellie’s when he says, “I always thought that there was one way to love. One right way. But, there are more; so many more than I knew and I never want to be the guy that stops loving someone for loving the way that they want to love.” 

In this scene, Paul proves that even as the stereotypical unintelligent jock, he was able to come to the conclusion that love knows no boundaries. Love looks different for everyone and who are we to determine who is loving in the “right” way and who is not? Love is unexpected and can’t be controlled, and Wu takes this one step further by leaving viewers on a cliffhanger as Ellie makes her bold move and kisses Aster, just before leaving for college. Aster, Ellie and the viewers are all left wondering how this particular love story will play out. As we have learned by now, love cannot be predicted so the best viewers can hope for at the end of this film is that a sequel is on its way!

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As a senior studying magazine journalism at Ohio University and a passionate feminist, I created Freely Femme as a way to use my love for storytelling to highlight some of the most inspirational women in my personal life and beyond.

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