Cancer sucks. No, it really sucks. It takes away the lives hundreds of people a day with no concerns and produces consequences those around the victims feel for the rest of their lives. It’s the lives they lived before, during, and after that we should focus on, and all the good that came out of them when they were here. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl may come off as blunt and off-putting, but I’m here to exclaim to all you readers out there that this film is a modern indie classic with a heart of gold and respect for it’s audience. This comedic drama about two high school buddies and their love of film collide once they meet a quirky girl who is diagnosed with leukemia.
Set in my hometown of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Greg, a high school senior who thinks he has the details of high school down to a science is a recluse with hippy parents and a rough and tough friend named Earl. Together, they make films that are nothing more than personal projects that spoof famous films (which is seen endlessly through the film) and the titles of their films alone will make you giggle. Greg’s life changes entirely when he meets Rachel, the girl with cancer. Not beginning as her friend, he is forced to make her acquaintance once Greg’s mother presses the issue. Alas, Greg and Rachel share a uniquely bizarre relationship full of laughs and quirks they can both appreciate about each other and you will eat it all up.
Insanely funny at times, I was expecting the film to be lighthearted about the topic at hand, but you don’t even realize it involves cancer for the majority of the film and that’s what you want. The focus zooms in on the relationships Greg has with Earl, Rachel, his parents, and even his tatted up history teacher played by Jon Bernthal. The relationships are what drive the film and fill it with humor and sensitivity and will be the selling point for audiences of all creeds. It’s a high school age dramedy about growing up and realizing the truths about yourself and the hardships other people go through in life while you attempt to learn how you are going to handle what life throws at you when the time.
Thomas Mann brings witty awkwardness to his character of Greg while permeating a natural tenderness without the annoyance of being sappy and melodramatic. There are long shots of he and Olivia Cooke (Rachel) just talking and chatting like normal (I use that lightly) teens preparing to go to college and it’s brilliantly crafted to a point you’d think it was just a hidden camera. RJ Cyler is also fantastic as Earl, the tough and cool friend of Greg’s who counterbalances his weirdness and passions as the honest and confident side of their “partnership” as Greg calls it. They are depictions of what everyone of us are with our friends from every masturbation joke to how we talk about people around us, it’s all there.
Without producing too much repetition, I want to tell you that Me and Earl and the Dying Girl may have a title that would normally turn some of us off, but it has loads more to say beyond it’s ballsy title. It handles the hardships everyone faces during the hours of sickness and growing up through artistically focused metaphors and emotions that build you up only to break you down to remodel you for the better the third time. The messages are clear and the plot stays blurry enough to have you guessing on where the story will eventually go.
All in all, the film is absolutely loony in the best ways, but it is also strongly directed with symbolism and passion. It’s a film I would want everyone to see at least once due to the subject matter at hand as well as the craftsmanship of the direction which often felt like a Wes Anderson film at times. The settings, stop-motion animation for some of the early scenes as well as the awkward protagonist, I definitely was getting a Wes Anderson vibe from the film and I was alright with that. Please see this film for the great young actors, the direction, the writing, and the treatment of the subject matter at hand, you will not be disappointed.