The part where an awkward guy meets a lovely girl diagnosed with cancer. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl could be a love story but this is rather a story of mismatched friendship. The premise could simply sound familiar until one finally sees the beauty, wit and charm in watching through and through. Apologies to the followers of the likes of The Fault in Our Stars (2014) and Now is Good (2012), but this particular one is more than the usual dose of a tear-jerker. Instead of making its audiences cry, it intends to let them care for and see through its characters.
Having premiered to a standing ovation at the recent Sundance Film Festival where it bagged the US Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and the Audience Award for US Drama, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is yet another entry to the roster of memorable festival favorites.
It tells the story of Greg (played by Thomas Mann), a creative high school student who begins his senior year knowing he has the knack for the academics, only there is total failure keeping true friendship. He happens to stick with a friend called Earl (RJ Cycler) who has the same interest in foreign movies as Greg’s dad (Nick Offerman). The two have been making film parodies of the classics since they are kids (Senior Citizen Cane, 2:48 P.M. Cowboy, Breathe Less and A Sockwork Orange to name a few).
The loner in Greg turns upside down when his mother (Connie Britton) coerces him to visit a neighbor who has leukemia, in the belief that a smooth sailing friendship would at the very least ease the trouble of Rachel (Olivia Cooke). The friendship is initially tagged as one in doom but it eventually materializes into something better with a number of realization on the side as the characters come to age and discover more of themselves.
The thin line between the written and the visual is acquainted by rare sensitivity. As an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jesse Andrews, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon worked it out as an accessible reality not just for the sake of touching the hearts of the sentimental but also for that of the optimism in laughter. Beyond anything else, this serves as a revolution of millennial feelings for the kind of audience that is willing to embrace this generation.
Handled with care through rigid and playful direction, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is presented with such personality of its own. It is aware of its mawkishness as it is equally sure of where is it is heading. It even has a powerful undertone that speaks loudly through its script. Listen closer and you would hear how the fragility of today’s youth sounds. On another hand, there is restraint in the cameraworks as there is certainty on what has to be focused on. The framing, which regularly calls to mind the 2014 comedy drama film Comet by Sam Esmail, perfectly blends in with the music from Brian Eno which even includes several previously unheard of compositions. Humor kicks in time and again while balancing off the propensity of being overly emotional.
All of these elements come together as handy in creating a powerful and engaging world in the midst of the story’s triumvirate: the insightful narrator, the ‘co-worker’ best friend, and the cancer-stricken girl you would still wish to be with–should this be a touching romantic story.