In defense of longing, non-romantic love and platonic soulmates: a "The Half of It" review

This review contains heavy spoilers from Alice Wu's "The Half Of It". We do not advise reading it before watching the movie.

I had already cried for 9 times (I counted it) during the movie when Ellie stopped, realization taking over her face before she dropped her bike and ran back to kiss Aster. "I'll see you in a couple of years", Ellie says, not waiting for an answer and leaving a giggling Aster behind  — and then I cried for the 10th time. That moment felt like the culmination of every other moment of the movie. I started wishing that I, too, had a dorky straight male friend tell me how to know if a girl wants you to kiss them when I was 17. You miss a lot of obvious social cues when you're forced into adulthood before you should. And when you're gay. That turning back and that kiss had all of the answers I was longing for while watching the movie — and Aster wanted that kiss too, but they both knew they needed to be sure before doing the not-safe thing.
If my love for The Half of It is about representation and representation is about identification, I identify as the main trio, all of them at once. And it would be a joy if I were smart and independent like Ellie, funny like Paul and beautiful and artsy like Aster. Instead I'm just stubborn like Ellie, clueless like Paul and unsure of who I could be like Aster. I remember being 17. It was like all of these qualities were strengths. At 17 you're in survival mode, and though you really want to know who you are, knowing that you don't have to figure it out just yet, it's what keeps you going day by day. Everyone who is lucky enough will go through being 17 at least once. At 17 love is "messy, and horrible, and selfish and bold". Falling in love at 17 is about loving the unknown, loving the projections, loving the way those butterflies on the top of your stomach make you feel. But if you're just the right type of lucky: The people you love at 17 will stay with you forever. Maybe not physically but they can be a part of who you are, if you just take that leap. And that love doesn't have to be romantic (the real loves of my life, whom I mostly met when I was 17, aren't), it just has to be love.
But representation it's only the half of it (I know, lame joke). I've known about this movie for a really long time — my friend is friends with the main cast and her congratulatory post on the day of the first table read was all I needed to be obsessed. To have a lesbian movie, lead by actresses who are Asian and Latinx, written and directed by an Asian lesbian filmmaker? Felt like a dream. Being a queer woman on the internet, you crave queer narratives like they're the cupcake you know it's waiting for you on the fridge. However, many times that cupcake does not taste the way you expect it to (when the stories are just bad) or sometimes someone gets to that cupcake before you (when you wake up the day of a release and the internet is filled with people telling you all the reasons this movie ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH). I couldn't let this happen with The Half of It. I wanted to experience the movie firsthand, with no other opinions over me. I wanted the movie to be what it was, not what I wanted it to be. And yes, I have been screaming about this movie for 13 months but I also muted everyone on my timeline who was posting every piece of information they could find. I avoided reviews like they were toxic. Expectation is the mother of disappointment and on God, I did have some big expectations about this movie but every single one of them was surpassed. I let the motive just be what it was and it is wholesome on the every meaning of the world. It’s a whole story.
The key of appreciating the narrative power of a story like this is understanding that not every story needs to be about you, but you need to have at least a very small bit of empathy to be able to connect with the characters: The Half of It is about three teenagers who feel the weight of the world and act the part. But they're still teenagers. They're still right on that sweet spot of constant change and uncertainty that could tear personal relations apart in the blink of an eye. So the idea of a happily ever after would fall apart easily. We don't need them to be happy forever and after anyway, we just need them to be okay. That's what makes those final scenes resonate with me in such a deep level: I don't need to know what happens next, I just need to know they're gonna be okay. Or to quote the movie "You gotta know you have everything you need to get to that pretty good painting again. But if you never do the bold stroke, you'll never know if you could've had a great paiting.". And I believe they do.

Giulia Santana is a Brazilian author, journalist, fangirl and activist — but not necessarily on that order.


  1. great review it clearly hit every button with you. alice wu is a master.