Now Streaming: Your New Favourite Teen Rom-Com

Welcome to “What’s Good,” a weekly column where we break down what’s soothing, distracting, or just plain good in the streaming world.
Photo: Courtesy of KC Bailey/Netflix.
What’s Good: The Half Of It On Netflix Canada 
Who It’s Good For: Fans of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Booksmart, The Edge of Seventeen, and any other very good YA comedy that is also romantic, smart, and starring wonderfully enigmatic heroines. If you’re into films with Cyrano de Bergerac-inspired love triangles (like Hitch and The Truth About Cats and Dogs) this will also be your whole shit. Basically, if you have a soul and a pulse, this movie is going to touch you in ways you probably weren’t expecting. 
Advertisement
How Good Is It? It’s sobbing-on-your-couch-before-breakfast GOOD. Full disclosure: I knew The Half of It was going to be this week’s pick before I’d even seen it. After all, it stars teenagers trying to figure out their identities while (kinda) falling in love and that’s my favourite genre. It also won a big award at the Tribeca Film Festival and is sitting at a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, which, in our current reality, is basically like being a Best Picture frontrunner.
I fell hard for Ellie Chu (played by Nancy Drew’s Leah Lewis — if you don’t know her, you will soon) — based on the trailer alone. Director/writer Alice Wu’s queer coming-of-age tale follows whip-smart Ellie as she meets shy and simple Paul (the adorable Daniel Diemer), a guy in her class who wants her to write love letters to his crush on his behalf. She agrees, even though she’s got it bad for the same girl, Aster (Alexxis Lemire). It’s not a groundbreaking premise —romantic comedies rarely are comprised of these — but its execution is special. After watching The Half of It, I will now abandon all other priorities in my life to yell at everyone to please let this movie comfort you with its dueling familiarity and individuality.
See, as Ellie puts it, "This is not a love story — or not one where anyone gets what they want." No spoilers, but The Half of It lets you know early on that this isn’t one of those Guy-Gets-Girl or even Girl-Gets-Girl movies. Sometimes, the best love stories focus on the most complex and challenging relationships in our lives that have nothing to do with romance, like the one between a father and a daughter, or a girl and her best friend. Ellie and her immigrant dad live in a conservative town (Squahamish, Washington) that spews casual racism as easily as it sings hymns at church on Sunday. Their quiet bond will leave you in a puddle of your own feelings. Ellie and Paul become an unlikely duo that will leave you wondering who dares to keep cutting onions so close to your eyeballs.
Advertisement
The Half of It’s greatest strength — and it has many — is Lewis' Ellie. Ellie is not your average teen-movie character. We’ve seen girls of colour emerge as the lead in rom-coms lately (To All The Boys, Never Have I Ever) but we rarely get to see queer girls of colour be complex, relatable centres of the story, not the sidekicks. Ellie is Chinese-American, and her otherness isn’t ignored, but it also isn’t treated as a tragedy. (Especially now, this authentic portrayal of being Chinese in America feels urgent and important.) Ellie is a pragmatic, nerdy, sometimes-clueless regular teen girl — like so many other teen girls. And that’s what’s incredible about The Half of It. It feels like you’re watching a few months in the life of unremarkable small-town kids play out in a carefully created world that goes at its own pace. It’s the perfect quarantine watch — a sweet, soothing slow burn.
“The good thing about being different is that no one expects you to be like them,” Ellie says. The Half Of It may have all the ingredients of the genre I’ve come to love: a popular girl, an unrequited crush (or two), and a tear-jerking display of love that I wouldn’t dare call a grand gesture, but it’s not like other teen movies.
It’s better. 
Things that are also good:
· Finally watching the world fall in love with Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the star of Never Have I Ever and the best thing to come out of 2020 so far
· Managing to get out of bed on a Bad Day. Take the small victories!
· Re-watching Josie and the Pussycats, a movie before its time, on HBO
· Listening to the “Savage” remix on repeat, then watching Zendaya react to the "Savage" remix on repeat
· Not having to jump into our jeans. Beyoncé understands the struggle
· Insecure showrunner Prentice Penny’s refreshing dramedy about family dysfunction, wine, and barbecue, Uncorked, on Netflix
· The criminally underrated critical darling The Last Black Man In San Francisco on Crave

More from TV