The Half of It

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Half of It Movie Poster Image
 Popular with kids
Touching, smart teen story deals with sexuality; drinking.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 16 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Explores complexities of relationships (friends, lovers, families) from a teen/young adult perspective with insightful results. Promotes honesty, empathy, respect for differences. Includes some conversation about God, beliefs, values.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Multilayered heroine is wise, accomplished, responsible, humble. She develops confidence, compassion, joyfulness. To earn extra money, Ellie secretly writes school papers for other kids. Characters defy stereotypes: dim "oaf" proves to be insightful, ambitious; popular teen beauty has depth and artistic gifts. Adults (parents, teachers) are all responsible and caring. Ethnic diversity.

Violence

A slap, a hit, a fall from bike with no injury. 

Sex

Kisses (same sex, opposite sex). A potential lesbian relationship emerges. Conversations about being "gay."

Language

Occasional cursing: "hell," "damn," "crap," "s--t." Peeing is mentioned.

Consumerism

Yakult probiotic drink, Dr. Pepper.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink alcohol at a celebratory party. Heroine drinks too much, vomits, takes two aspirin the next morning.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Half of It is a teen romcom with wry humor and serious themes set in a small-town high school in the Pacific Northwest. It centers on Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a bright teen who writes a letter on behalf of a smitten but not very articulate boy to the girl of his dreams. Complicating matters is the fact that Ellie has her own crush on the dream girl. Both same- and opposite-sex couples kiss, a potential same-sex relationship emerges, and there are conversations about sexuality. One scene takes place at a high school party with underage drinking. Ellie drinks too much and then vomits. The next morning, when she wakes up with a hangover, she takes two pills (presumed to be aspirin). Expect a bit of mild cursing like "crap," "damn," "s--t," and "hell." A teen falls from her bike, and someone is slapped. There's some talk about God, beliefs, and values. With its sly comedy and shrewd take on relevant issues, the movie should appeal to most teens and their families.

Wondering if The Half of It is OK for your kids?

Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13 and 13-year-old Written byReda R. May 10, 2020

Helping your teen navigate relationships

My husband and twin teenage girls had to talk me into watching this movie, because it looked like just another dumb teen Netflix dramedy; I'm happy they di... Continue reading
Adult Written byemilyjoy May 19, 2020

Stellar coming-of age friendship story

This beautiful, well-written film is great for budding teens and adults alike. Don't believe the ratings tainted by people thinking that a girl kissing ano... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byits_litty May 1, 2020

Great Netflix film

The Half of It is an inspiring, well done movie that includes diverse characters. The main character, Ellie, is very relatable to me because she is introverted... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byProfessorPi May 1, 2020

My new favorite film.

SUCH A GOOD FILM. Defeats a lot of tropes and has the lesbian/himbo bromance I have been craving for YEARS. Nobody "gets the girl" in the end, which I... Continue reading

What's the story?

Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) is bright, perceptive, and pretty much on her own in THE HALF OF IT. Her small-town high school has its share of jocks, cool kids, nerds, and artsy types, but Ellie doesn't hang with any group. She studies hard and feels very responsible for her dad. A widowed Chinese immigrant with a PhD, Mr. Chu (Collin Chou) speaks almost no English, and is barely earning a living. He and Ellie live above the train station he operates. To earn extra money, Ellie secretly writes school papers for other kids. Enter Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer). "Munsky" is aware of Ellie's writing enterprise and approaches her: $50 if Ellie will write one letter in his name to Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), the popular girl he's in love with from afar. Reluctantly, Ellie agrees. What makes the prospect so hard, however, is that though she's never acknowledged it, Ellie is definitely attracted to Aster. So, complications ensue, and what begins as a one-time, money-making proposition becomes a poignant and funny adventure in growing up for Ellie, and for Paul and Aster, too. 

Is it any good?

Exploring friendship, love, and sexuality, as well as the hardships of a Chinese family's integration in the U.S., this film is executed with integrity and heart. Lead actor Leah Lewis never misses a beat. Her sincerity, comic timing, and seeming effortlessness in bringing Ellie Chu to life is a joy to watch. She's supported by an excellent cast. Writer-director Alice Wu has guided The Half of It players with a delicate touch. The movie is laugh-out-loud funny, literate, and insightful all at once. The few missteps -- an awkward climax in church that's not in keeping with the authenticity of the rest of the film, and some geographically "convenient" moments -- don't detract from the impact of the movie's inherent glow. In the ever expanding list of Netflix romcoms for teens, this one rises to the top. Highly recommended.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Half of It portrays teen drinking. Were you surprised that Ellie joined in? What were the consequences of her behavior? Why is it a good idea for families with older kids and teens to discuss drinking and substance abuse in movies?

  • The movie asks, "If love isn't the effort you put in, then what is it?" What do you think this means? Give some examples from your experience that might confirm the notion.

  • How did the small-town Washington State setting contribute to the story?  In what ways did it define the characters and their expectations? What made the movie very "Northwest" in its look and feel?

  • Why are movies and books based on Cyrano de Bergerac so popular? Can you think of some other examples?

Movie details

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love romcoms

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate