Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Writers: Jesse Andrews (screenplay by), Jesse Andrews (based on the novel by)
Stars: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is very much an honest humorous drama along the same lines as The Fault in Our Stars (2014) and 50/50 (2011) I enjoyed both these movies on how they handled the tragic subject of someone being diagnosed with cancer and how it affects the ones around them. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is somewhere in between both The Fault in Our Stars and 50/50. It has that certain dark humour of 50/50 but a more emotional tone of The Fault in Our Stars.
High School kid Greg (Thomas Mann) along with his best friend Earl (RJ Cyler) spend most of their time making movies that parody classic film. Both Greg and Earl have a rather weird standoffish relationship and see each other as co-workers rather than friends, but it’s clear to see they are actually friends. Thomas Mann as Greg portrays a rather likeable kid who appears to just want to sail through high school uninterrupted and hassle free to the point (and it’s in his narration) that although he doesn’t want to strike up new friendships, it isn’t a bad idea to be on good terms with everyone in his school.
Just as his life appears to be running smoothly Greg’s mother drops a bombshell to her son that a childhood friend and co-pupil of his has been diagnosed with Leukemia. She insists that Greg should visit Rachel (Olivia Cooke) to try and cheer her up and keep her spirits up through this difficult time. At first a reluctant Greg agrees to this and so begins a blossoming friendship with Rachel.
This is where I feel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a better movie than The Fault in Our Stars thanks to a brilliantly written screenplay. Greg’s journey with Rachel is natural, interesting and heartbreaking in the sense that we witness their happiest and worst times together and by the end of the movie we see a different Greg from the one at the beginning of the movie. Don’t get me wrong this movie isn’t your usual “coming of age” storyline, nor is it a movie with all the usual cliches. It’s sensitive when it has to be and humorous when it needs to be.
Mann and Cooke’s chemistry is very naturally and especially in the beginning when they are getting to know each other. Mann’s kinda awkward charm shines through Cooke’s stubborn portrayal of Rachel and as the film moves on Cooke’s development into a serious ill young girl is very emotional and at times heartbreaking to watch. Mann’s Greg on the other hand naturally struggles to handle the situation and at times doesn’t know what to do. Thankfully advice from his “co-worker” Earl who is portrayed by a very laid back RJ Cyler and Teacher Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal) help him through this time.
Both Cyler and Bernthal play rather subdued characters in this film and only offer guidance and a roundedness to the situation involving Rachel. Earl spends most of his lunchtimes in Mr. McCarthy’s room watching old films with Greg and their teacher and really only opens up about his feelings and his emotions about Rachel and her illness through a video that he prepared for her. Bernthal as Mr. McCarthy is the voice of reason in the film and a go to for Greg for advice. His portrayal of the character has a slight weirdness to him but come across as a genuine guy.
Other supporting cast members in Nick Offerman, Connie Britton and Molly Shannon are exactly that. Offerman as Greg’s Dad is slightly wacky and I’m not entirely sure what purpose other than being Greg’s Dad are in these characteristics other than perhaps Offerman asked if he portray this character this way. Britton and Shannon playing the mothers of Greg and Rachel are decent and nothing more.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a brilliantly written film that doesn’t shy away from the tragedy that is Leukemia. At the same time although tries to make light of the situation is sensitive enough to know where not to cross the line. In fact it handles the situation beautifully and full credit to Jesse Andrews for this wonderfully touching story that emotionally has it all. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a brilliantly scripted and brilliantly acted movie that I can’t recommend enough.