The Half Of It (Netflix)
Starring Leah Lewis, Daniel Diemer, Alexxis Lemire, and Collin Chou
Directed by Alice Wu
Mohit Suri’s Ek Villain plays an important in Chinese-American director Alice Wu’s sophomore film—some of you must have seen her dishy debut film Saving Face—The Half Of It,which is a surprisingly warm and wonderful view of teen angst .
In the film the 17-year old Chinese American protagonist Ellie Chu(Leah Lewis,a delightful discovery) and her pal Paul(Daniel Diemer) watch Siddharth Malhotra run after the train carrying a sobbing Shradha Kapoor away in Ek Villain. At the end of the film they enact the same situation though not as parody but an affirmation that life often imitates art.
And art, this film is. It is a beautiful little gem about three very young people on the threshold of life, in love with one another. But ‘young’ here is not synonymous with callow. Our heroine is Ellie a solemn serious student of life literature and poetry, We seldom see the young girl smiling or enjoying the gift of life.Maybe because the sleepy American town Squahamish does not encourage variations of life.
The sameness, the frozen fate, the static karma have begun to get to Ellie .Specially since she is a lesbian and has no one to share her thoughts with, in school or at home.
Home is a static Chinese father(Collin Chou) who spends all his time watching black-and-white Hollywood classics(some of which have deeply inspired this sparkling romantic karmedy).
Things liven up for Ellie when at school her eyes fall on the divine beauty Aster Flores(Alexxis Lemire) who is criminally beautiful as though God created her on a Sunday. It’s love at first sight for Ellie. But before she could make a move(doubtful, considering her hesitant diffident nature) an eager boy Paul(Daniel Diemer) seeks Ellie’s help to woo Aster.
Remember Salman Khan getting Sanjay Dutt to write poems to woo Madhuri Dixit in Sajan? If Sajan was a smart, sexy , same-sex love story it may have aspired to be something as excellently executed as this enrapturing coming-of-age saga with not one flabby moment. Director Alice Wu keeps the proceedings forever upbeat, and yet there is an undercurrent of sorrow and regret in the storytelling.
This film mourns not for the opportunities that are lost in love, but those that are never likely to happen.The Half Of It is a very pretty film with shades of dark racism: boys yelling ‘Chu Chu’ to Ellie as they drive by her signature bicycle, dear friend wondering what the Chinese eat, etc. Specially at this time when there is so much global distrust against the Chinese, this film reminds us that when a heart breaks the sound is the same in every language.