The Half of It review: The YA rom-com we’ve needed for a long time

The Half Of It - Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer - Photo Credit: Netflix / KC Bailey
The Half Of It - Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer - Photo Credit: Netflix / KC Bailey /

The Half of It is the YA rom-com we’ve been waiting way too long for. While not perfect, it was a beautiful portrayal of love and friendship.

Alice Wu’s The Half of It immediately gained attention when the trailer was released. Netflix’s newest YA rom-com made it clear that this was bringing a story we’ve been waiting a long time for. Move over cute boy-meets-girl and welcome a story of queer love and platonic friendship.

For those who have somehow missed the promotional material for The Half of It, the movie stars Leah Lewis as Ellie Chu. You’ll know Lewis from Nancy Drew, but she takes on a different role in this movie. Instead of the confident and sassy George, she’s a shy girl who ghostwrites essays for her classmates. (For a price, of course!)

When a jock asks her to write a love letter to a girl, Ellie is initially against it. However, a financial problem makes her take on the tasks, and soon, she finds herself forming a friendship with the jock and falling in love with the girl she’s writing to.

More about friendship than love

The YA rom-com certainly has the story of queer love. Ellie falls in love with Aster, even though Astrid has no idea that it’s Ellie who is writing the letters. However, it’s the story of friendship that takes up most of the movie. And while we need the queer love story, we also need these stories of platonic friendship.

Ellie and Paul (Daniel Diemer) get to know more about each other. Of course, Ellie needs to know about Paul to write the letters and sound authentic, but Paul also wants to get to know Ellie. He starts to get annoyed at the name-calling and teasing Ellie faces and wants to get to know her dad and about her family.

Alice Wu doesn’t opt for the standard friendship storylines; instead, she gives this friendship time to breathe and get stronger.

It’s only in the last 30 minutes of the story or so that we move onto the love story as a whole. This is the moment that Ellie gets to spend some alone time with her love, which you know means some drama, tears, and happiness. The best thing is that it pulls all the tropes of YA movies but with the lesbian relationship, proving that queer relationships are just like any other.

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A story of life

As well as friendship, we get a story of life. After all, this is a teenager who is still trying to find herself. She’s trying to figure out what to do with her life, trying to manage life with her dad and trying to avoid being stuck in her small town.

High school movies include one teacher our main character can gain advice from. That’s no different in The Half of It, and it comes in the form of Mrs. Geselschap (Becky Ann Baker). While she knows that Ellie does the homework, she doesn’t turn Ellie in. In fact, she’s more impressed that Ellie can write six essays about Plato but make them all different. It’s a testament to her genius, so it’s no wonder that Mrs. Geselschap wants Ellie to get out of town.

Filming wise, the movie doesn’t have anything that stands out differently to the likes of To All the Boys and The Fault in Our Stars. The brilliance of the movie is the story. It’s the connection Ellie has to various characters and the way that these different characters can help her learn more about herself, the world, and much more.

I will admit the end seems to fall to pieces a little. There’s a lot to wrap up in the last 20 minutes of the episode, including the drama that comes with certain realizations and declarations of love. It does feel like The Half of It could have done with an extra 30 minutes or so to fully flesh out some of the storylines. However, that doesn’t take away from the positivity in the first three-quarters of the movie.

Does it all end with a happy love story? I’ll leave you with the movie to find out. One thing I will say is that the movie ends the way it starts—unexpectedly.

This is one of those stories that everyone who loves YA rom-coms needs to watch at least once. Watch it twice and you’ll see something else in the story stands out. Either way, you will have a tale that will put a smile on your face for its progressiveness, inclusivity, and beauty.

The Half of It is now streaming on Netflix.

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