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Review: The Half of It dir. Alice Wu
This film will make your whole heart sing
The Half of It will make your whole heart sing. A loose contemporary queer retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac, the film follows teenager Ellie Chu when she agrees to help fellow classmate Paul Munsky write love letters to the girl of his dreams Aster Flores. It is a brilliant film in every sense from the writing to the performances to the visuals brought together under the vision of writer-director Alice Wu.
A true love triangle where affection and attraction exists between different pairings amongst all three of its members – Ellie, Paul and Aster – as opposed to two love interests vying for one protagonist, has become rare and it’s so exciting to see one flourish in this film.
Throughout the film, there is a consistent theme of only feeling like half of something, instead of whole. Ellie begins the film through voiceover narration and introduces the Ancient Greek idea that originally humans were born physically attached to their soulmate. The Gods then decided to split all couples in half out of anger at the humans, forcing them to spend their whole lives searching for their other halves.
Perhaps the most spectacular moment of this motif is when Ellie and Aster are lying together in the hot spring and their faces are reflected in the water. For a brief moment, they are both whole.
Ellie is searching for more than just her other romantic half in this film, as the story also follows her experience as a Chinese immigrant living in the United States. She lives with her father by the train station where he works, often having to take on chores and household tasks due to his reluctance to speak English while dealing with racist comments from her classmates.
The presence of trains in the movie – whether it’s Ellie and Paul scheming in an empty carriage at the station or the emotional train sequence at the end of the film –provides a great visual representation of whether the characters are actively going after what they want.
The characters in this film all shine and Wu does a great job of exploring each different relationship in her writing. Aside from the romantic elements of the film, Ellie and Paul’s friendship is fantastic as is Paul’s touching relationship with Ellie’s father.
The Half of It is one of those rare phenomenal movies which gets everything right. It will tug on your heartstrings, make you laugh and urge you to shed a tear.
Rating: Highly recommend
Film: The Half of It
Director: Alice Wu
Writer: Alice Wu
Starring: Leah Lewis (Ellie Chu), Daniel Diemer (Paul Munsky), Alexxis Lemire (Aster Flores) and Collin Chou (Edwin Chu)
Release Date: 1 May 2020