By Mary Sollosi
April 09, 2020 at 09:00 AM EDT
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HALF OF IT
NETFLIX

For those of you who thought Tiger King was going to be Netflix’s only major quarantine contribution — you don’t know the half of it.

Alice Wu’s The Half of It hits the streamer on May 1, and EW can exclusively reveal the trailer, below, and two new images from the upcoming teen romantic comedy. Leah Lewis stars as Ellie Chu, an introverted overachiever in a small, conservative town who makes money writing English papers for her classmates. When jock Paul (Daniel Diemer) turns to her to help him compose love letters to popular girl Aster (Alexxis Lemire), Ellie and Paul strike up an unlikely friendship — but only Ellie knows that they’ve both fallen for the same girl.

“I remember reading the synopsis and thinking to myself, ‘Oh, this is new. This is very brand new,’” Lewis tells EW. “But when I read the script, that was when I remember telling my rep and the ones that are closest to me, ‘If I’m not Ellie Chu, I will be so upset. I will cry if I don’t somehow get to be a part of this incredible project.’” The subversive Cyrano de Bergerac-inspired rom-com “is so not what you would expect” says Lewis. “It’s not just about love, it’s about Ellie finding herself, it’s about Ellie being the outsider.”

For Wu, who had originally envisioned the story being among older people but moved it to the microcosm of high school for its high emotional stakes and dramatic social potential, the love story’s endgame isn’t (for lack of a better phrase) the half of it. “What it turns out to be about is recognizing that there are so many different ways to love, and some of them are romantic and some of them are platonic and some of them are familial,” the filmmaker tells EW. “Part of the joy is that you can go on that journey looking for your other half, but the point isn’t the finding, the point is that journey will help you learn more about yourself.”

The film had been set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, which was scheduled to begin next week before the coronavirus pandemic forced widespread cancellations across festivals, productions, concert tours, and film releases. “Is it a bummer? It is,” Wu says of losing the film’s festival premiere and theatrical release. “But frankly I’m just lucky I have a film that can be seen at all."

And of course, now everyone’s in a perfect position to watch movies on Netflix — which was a major draw for the filmmaker when she was first seeking financing and had to choose where to set up the project. “I realized, I really was hoping that maybe someone, like a kid or a parent or someone who maybe lives in a more conservative town, might watch this,” she recalls. “And it might make them think about that one kid that everyone pokes fun at because maybe he’s gay, or maybe that one immigrant family in town. And I thought, 'Well, I really want that person to see it.' And I realized that person’s never going to a Landmark theater. But in the privacy of their own home, they might press play on Netflix.”

You can press play when The Half of It hits Netflix on May 1. Check out the exclusive trailer and images above.

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