Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Writer: Jesse Andrews
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, and Connie Britton
Jesse Andrews wrote the screenplay, adapting his own book, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, back in 2012. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon joined the project after reading the script and fell in love with how the dialogue and characters. He also saw it as a way to capture the grief that he was dealing with at the time. Together they created one of the most moving and quirky coming of age films in recent years.
Greg (Thomas Mann) is a social outcast in school. He doesn’t assign himself to any group, preferring to stay under the radar of others. Instead of spending lunch in the cafeteria he spends it in his history professor’s office with his co-worker (not friend) Earl (RJ Cyler). Together they make films, parodies, and spoofs of classic and foreign films. Rachel (Olivia Cooke) is diagnosed with leukaemia and Greg is forced by his mother to spend time with her and slowly they bond, and Greg starts to feel comfortable and find somewhere he belongs.
While the story has some bleak and depressing moments, that isn’t the overall tone of the film. At it’s core it’s about hope. Greg doesn’t have any friends because he won’t allow himself to have any, because that makes him vulnerable. He has made an acquaintance with every group in school, from the goths to the jocks, to ensure that he isn’t bullied. Even Earl, who has been by his side for years, is seen as a co-worker and not a friend. He’s forced to befriend Rachel and that means letting people see his films, letting someone get to know him and being open to someone telling him that they aren’t friends anymore. It’s an emotional and touching story that is gripping from it’s strange opening to the final credits.
The film starts with Greg not sure how to start his story. He takes a classic opening, ‘it was the best of times. It was the worst of times’ and tries to define what that means. It’s shown through stop-motion animation showing what Greg’s describing. Stuff like that appears all through the film. It’s a quirky and odd story and it works perfectly. The strangeness is something akin to Wes Anderson, with the use of animation and bizarre humour.
The parodies of classic films from ‘A Sockwork Orange’ to ‘Don’t Look Now, because a Creepy Dwarf is About to Kill You!!! Damn.’ are hilarious. The love of cinema in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is palpable. Some of the other names and posters for their parodies are genius, that won’t be spoiled here.
The entire cast is perfect. Thomas Mann is great as the awkward teenager. Olivia Cooke is just as excellent as the emotional heart of the film. RJ Cyler is great as Earl, and it’s through him that we learn about Greg’s life. The rest of the cast are all fantastic, and there’s an incredibly funny cameo by one of the biggest stars around (honestly, it’s worth watching the film for that scene alone).
Watching Rachel’s struggle with cancer and her life being reduced from school-life, talking about prom, to being a shut in, stuck in her room, is an emotional journey. At the same time Greg is finally coming out of his shell and starting to enjoy life. The film is about beginnings and endings and it’s something that will make you shed a few tears at points. Overall it’s a hopeful film and this is a comedy that has many laugh out loud moments, it’s not too downbeat or depressing.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a special film. The passion behind the film is very evident and this is a very personal story. It’s about loss and beginnings, finding yourself in life and taking chances even though that makes you vulnerable. Simply put it’s a masterpiece.