Acqua & Movies: The Half of It (2020)

Hello! This is me, still only using my recently-reactivated Netflix account to watch sapphic releases. I am nothing but a predictable creature, the simple gay.


Reminding everyone yet again that while my book reviews come from a place of… more or less knowing what I’m talking about, given that I read a lot, my movie “reviews” do not, given certain obstacles (aka screen anxiety, which made this movie be an afternoon long; I need constant pauses).


After having watched this, my first reaction is puzzlement about how this movie was being talked about on twitter. There were people talking about the importance of queer movies with a sad ending… and this wasn’t sad? At all? Why are we at the point that the slightest sliver of ambiguity in queer media is compared to a tragic ending? Also, The Half of It‘s ending felt happier to me than Booksmart‘s, and for that one I saw only glowing praise on twitter for months. Interesting.

For me, The Half of It was an immensely more pleasant experience than Booksmart was last year, or than any of the TV shows set in high school I tried this year, both because I got along with the sense of humor better, and because it was less overwhelmingly That Kind of American Story. There seems to be a certain American self-centeredness inherent to white American movies and TV shows set in high school. Like, hahah this is the high school experience right? So much is spent trying so hard to be relatable to a restricted part of your audience and so little is actually spent on establishing a context, on making things feel real. But The Half of It actually established an atmosphere and doesn’t take as much for granted that the viewer is already familiar with the setting, which makes inherently more international-friendly. I also really appreciated having a bilingual main character speak both English and Chinese on the screen.

Here, there’s still the overreliance on stereotypes about high school, but there’s not the cheesy “you’ll miss high school” when the main character leaves for college, and there’s not the whole “everything is about parties” motif this time around. I also felt for Ellie, and wasn’t constantly cringing because of secondhand embarrassment in the funny parts. Her dynamic with Paul – the whole “straight boy who rushes into things without thinking” + “overthinking and overanalyzing in lesbian” (oh the yearning) was absolutely adorable.

I’m also still not over how much not recognizing the trees unsettles me. I know it’s another continent but the small details feel so alien because I’m still automatically in botany course mode! I felt a deep connection with Ellie when she asked Aster whether a certain tree is deciduous while panicking because gay in the pond scene. (Of course there’s a pond scene!)

My only complaint is that Alexxis Lemire is very clearly in her mid-twenties. There are people who are not teenagers who still look or can be made to look like a teen, and… she’s just not one of them.

Overall, this was a wonderful coming-of-age lesbian movie focusing on friendship, with a sprinkle of romance, a complicated love triangle full of feelings in all directions, and a well-placed ambiguous ending. I strongly recommend it and I don’t even like watching movies.

Have you watched this one? What did you think? Anything on Netflix I should see before my account expires again?

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