Warning: This story contains spoilers from Netflix's teen movie, The Half of It.
Netflix's The Half of It tells the story of Ellie Chu (Nancy Drew's Leah Lewis), a shy, straight-A, friendless Chinese-American high school senior who makes extra cash by writing papers for her fellow classmates in the backwoods of the sleepy Washington town of Squahamish. When she reluctantly agrees to help football jock Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) write love letters for his crush, school beauty Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire), the girl Ellie secretly crushes on, the unlikely trio embark on an unconventional triangle.
Directed by Alice Wu, there couldn't be a more relevant time for the film, which is a modern-day, queer-teen version of Cyrano de Bergerac, to drop. (Friday kicks off Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which celebrates and acknowledges the contributions and influences of the Asian community, in the U.S.)
"This story houses so many different things that people can resonate with," Lewis tells ET's Katie Krause. "We speak on the matter of family. We speak on the matter of friendship, coming of age and honestly, just finding your own unique voice."
"I agree. It touches on so many subjects and I think that is what's so beautiful about it is that everybody from everywhere, I hope, can resonate with something and not feel alone," Lemire adds. "That's what I hope everybody can take from this -- a sense of understanding and knowing that someone out there is going through the same thing and they're not alone."
"There are so many nuances to the story and to these characters," Diemer says. "I think it provides a great array of different characteristics and different life experiences to draw from, so hopefully there's one thing that connects with everyone. And hopefully it helps them feel like they have a place and that they're loved and that there's people out there who resonate with who they are."
As the cast tells it, the characters' messy triangle is very reminiscent to real-life experiences, where falling in love means stumbles along the way.
"Growing up in general is such an interesting experience that we all go through and it's uniquely tailored to every single person. But, you know, love is still love," Lewis says. "Even though, when you're in high school it can seem like its's really, really huge and everything is [life or death and] it's really confusing and crazy. That still is valid because we as teenagers are experiencing romance for the first time. These characters are in love as they can possibly be at that age and I think that's something really beautiful to look at as well -- and exciting. Love is discovery for the first time when you're that age."
While Ellie and Aster's love story receives notice, Lemire zeroed in on Ellie and Paul's unexpected friendship as a worthy love story all their own.
"Whats really cool is you see the relationship between Ellie and Paul, and that's a platonic kind of love so it's not just focusing on the romance aspect," the actress credits. "I think those are also really important relationships that we need to remember are so important to nourish."
Diemer was quick to shrug off comparisons to Love, Simon, which also features a heavy letter-writing component and tells the sweet coming-of-age gay romance between Simon and one of his classmates, Bram.
"We've got comparisons to a lot of different films already and I think it is this thing of looking at the individuality of the characters," he says. "Everybody's human. Our stories are universal in so many different ways but diving into the intricacies of the lives that these characters are portraying, even though there might be comparisons. I think that we should rejoice in the similarities. The fact that more of these stories are getting told and these characters feel similar things, I think that's a really wonderful thing."
The ending of the film sees Ellie profess her love to Aster. Soon after, the two share a kiss before Ellie boards a train for Grinnell College in Iowa. While there is no clear answers on what the future holds, that's exactly the point -- and leaves just enough room for more story to be told, should a sequel manifest itself.
"That kiss was a baby step, which also, might I remind you, is a huge step as well into this new world of finding her sexuality," Lewis says. "There is no definite yes, these people are going to be together or no these people are not going to be together, but now these characters walk away with a sense of possibility. And I think Ellie's definitely thinking about it, but yeah, I think it opened a lot of doors for Aster as well. It made her think in a different way."
"Her family and her being in such a conservative town, more often than not there's one way of thinking and Ellie really changed that for her," she continues. "Ellie's going to college, Aster is finishing up her portfolios for art school and who knows, I think there's a lot of room for more storytelling."
The Half of It is now streaming on Netflix.
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in the U.S., which celebrates the contributions and influences of the Asian community. To capture the current state of representation in entertainment, ET Online will be spotlighting Asian performers and projects all month long.
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