Who knew a film about cancer could be so enjoyable.
An indie darling masterpiece, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is a joyous filmmaking experience. The film centred on three young people and the dysfunctional adults that surround and influence them. Nobody is without fault and none of the characters act in a way you wouldn’t expect from the disenfranchised youth of the world today. Me And Earl And The Dying Girl feels real, its a real discussion and character study framed with some delightful cinematography and delicate homages to filmmakers come before.
Greg, enchanting wide eyed Thomas Mann, is a high school anomoly, a figure who coasts by being everybody and nobody’s friend. His life is altered as an acquaintance, Rachel, is diagnosed with cancer and after some awkward interaction, Greg and his best friend/co-worker Earl are coerced into making a DIY film about her as she goes through chemotherapy. The plot is subdued and the film plays out with no real urgency as instead we are treated to character growth and the exploration of adolescence in a way not seem in the latest John Green novel or Sci Fi tween blockbuster. Greg, Earl and Rachel are all unusual characters, each doing what they need to do to survive school life and unsure of how to act when responsibility and change is thrust upon them. Their parents are varied, from Greg’s overinvolved mother and eccentric father, to Rachel’s self involved mother to Earl’s absent family unit. I didn’t particularly relate with any character in the film, but i know people that fit each role and the story plays perfectly to each.
The performances in the film are magical and allow complete suspension of disbelief. Thomas Mann is enchanting but directionless as Greg, his performances since Project X seem to just get better and better. Olivia Cooke plays the damaged Rachel convincingly. The potential for a young actor to oversell the drama in what is frequently a darker comedy is high but Cooke is up for the challenge here. Newcomer RJ Cyler is subdued but executed the Earl character well, his interaction with Mann a frequent highlight of the film. The supporting cast is equally enjoyable with comedy mainstays like Nick Offerman and Molly Shannon providing dark comedic elements to each scene, Jon Bernthal stealing each scene he is in.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directing his second feature film after dabbling in television has created an engaging piece of art with Me And Earl And The Dying Girl. As the story progresses the editing becomes slower and the frantic pace dissipates as it reflects the characters interactions and mood. The homemade films are little homage pieces to classic filmmaking as well as the more indie and DIY styles. Anybody can be a filmmaker in this world. The lighting and colour palette are changed and in increasingly subtle ways, we are drawn into the mood of the piece, our emotional attachment to the film growing towards a conclusion that feels like the only logical end despite its shock. Gomez-Rejon has brought to life a difficult part of life for many but made sure it never strayed into the absurd, the melodramatic or superficial.
Perhaps a coming of age tale that not many of us will ever have to confront ourselves, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl still feels vital and important against a backdrop of teen movies focused on switching on and tuning out. A wonderfully assembled cast, well paced narrative and character development and beautiful story ensure that the film will continue to receive accolades this year and potentially go down with a host of other cult teen must see films.