Leah Lewis, left, and Alexxis Lemire in a scene from “The Half of It.” KC Bailey photo/Netflix

How about this? Edmond Rostand’s perfect love story “Cyrano de Bergerac” on cellphones?

“The Half of It” is a lovely, romantic film with a perfect cast and magical writing by filmmaker Alice Wu, who directs from her own screenplay.

We first meet Ellie as she pedals furiously down a small town road.

Ellie is a quiet shy Chinese American student who lives in Suquamish, Washington, population 4,140. Think Pittsfield, Maine.

Ellie lives and chats in a Mandarin dialect with her widowed father, (Collin Chou, “The Matrix Reloaded”) a brilliant displaced engineer and teacher, even quieter than Ellie, trying to find a place in the American sun.

Unable to find a university to accept him, he works and lives as the town’s train station manager, waving the occasional lantern and handling the station paperwork.


Suquamish, high up in Washington state, is a small God-fearing town with a high school, a church, drug store and Goodwill store and not one Starbucks, all the stuff you wouldn’t find in a Andy Hardy movie, except for the one lovely Chinese lesbian, Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis “Nancy Drew.”)

There is an Andy Hardy here, in the big, 6’2″, lovable footballer with an even bigger heart. This will be Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer “Little Brother” 2023) you are gonna fall in love with Paul. In fact, you’ll fall in love with all of the principal players on these clean quiet streets.

Paul is in love with the local pastor’s daughter Aster Flores, (Alexxis Lemire “Torn Hearts”) and unable to stutter even a hello, let alone profess his love in anything close to eloquence.

Aster is a fledgling artist with a secret of her own. Secrets, good and sad, flourish “in this northern forest like wild flowers.”

Aster’s father is the local minister, and she dates big jock Trig, (Wolfgang Novogratz, “Yes, God, Yes.”)

So our Paul goes to our Ellie Chu, who has a reputation for clandestinely writing A+ essays for some of the other students for side cash.


Is the English teacher Mrs. Geselschap (Becky Ann Baker “Men in Black”) aware of this? Her secret hides in her desk drawer heart.

Love letters? Ellie is not amused and refuses. But there is a 50-buck bill at home to be paid or live in darkness. She stiffens and accepts.

The one letter deal between them grows along with the much-needed cash, and the love letters, flashed on Aster’s iPhone grow more and more romantic, as does Aster and Ellie’s relationship.

Here in tiny town, the heart games of the modern day Cyrano, Christian and Roxanne flourish with perhaps, Aster’s suspicions.

There is a scene, a beautiful one between the women at a warm spring pool in the woods.

Together they float in the still water sharing their fears and dreams. It’s a perfect scene.


It’s a lazy afternoon, and Wu plays it like the love scene it really is.

Each of the principals are perfect, magically played, but actors too young yet to know how good they are.

Wu, the writer and director, is a graduate of MIT and Stanford. She is what the upper floors in the business have labeled as “A comer.” You’ll agree.

Anton Sanko does the music along with the soundtrack of the film that blesses with Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind,” Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” and of course, the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”

“The Half of It” streams on Netflix.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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