Regarded as the next The Fault In Our Stars, it is a given that Jesse Andrews’ aply titled Me and Earl and the Dying Girl would most likely be a sob fest. Instead, unexpectedly the film is flooded with laughter, comedy, irony and wise crack jokes that makes director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s film completely endearing and remarkable.
A 2015 Sundance breakout – winner of U.S Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic and Audience Award: Dramatic – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl tells the story of Greg Gaines (Thoman Mann), a high school senior who’s friends with everyone but has no close friendships in order to avoid any of the typical conflict from high school. A “citizen of every nation”, Greg is the avoidable social butterfly, maintaining distant but Switzerland-like relationships with his cohorts. However, Greg has one friend, Earl (RJ Cyler), childhood friends and “co-workers” who share the odd hobby of recreating their own version of iconic films with pun-ny titles such as A Sockwork Orange. After an unwanted encouragement from his mother, Greg befriends the recently diagnosed Rachel (Olivia Cooke) and sets off an incredibly emotional journey of self-discovery and friendship.
Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is wonderful and perfectly casted, by far the highlight of the film. The film’s shining indie star, Thomas Mann is remarkable as Greg, displaying his adorable awkwardness and charming eccentricity. Mann’s performance transcends the typical mainstream lead actor type, giving a real and natural portrayal of an odd teenage boy. Through his experiences and with the help of old and new friends, Greg finds himself amongst the sea of anxiety. Filled with breakout performances, Olivia Cooke, as the film’s “dying girl” gives it all her in her breakout role. Cooke is realistic and surprisingly complex as Rachel, exuding a quiet reverence that illuminates the screen. She’s the girl with cancer but as the film progresses, a vivid and touching side of Rachel is creatively revealed. Even with the overload of young talent, nothing was quite as exceptional as newcomer RJ Cyler’s performance, showing candid comic relief amongst the gloomy moments. Cyler produced the most amount of laughs from the audience, the starkly commonsensical partner to Greg’s idealistic self, his authentic artistry is a radiant element to the coming-of-age film.
Adapting his own novel, screenwriter Jesse Andrews creates such depth and emotional characters through offbeat dialogue. Greg’s inner thoughts are narrated through quirky and hilarious lines – “this is not a touching romantic story” – that radiates the film’s feeling. Through the character’s humorous discourse, the areas of lightheartedness and exuberance are palpable. This however, is a stark contrast to the inevitable events of the rest of the film, but even then, Andrews and the rest of the crew find odd ways to make the audience laugh – take note of the Post-It – an uncanny and unique component of this amazing film. Only his second feature film to date, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directs the film with wholeheartedness and authenticity. His refreshing take on the coming-of-age story elevates the story to a whole new level, transcending the YA genre. Like the film’s aura, the camera never stays put, executing odd and unusual angles to keep the audience engaged and mesmerised. The quirky camera work and vintage feel further emphasise the unconventional tone of the film, emanating the bright and extraordinary story of the characters.
Right of the bat, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was subjected to constant comparisons of last year’s hit film, The Fault in Our Stars. An unescapable feat due to the obvious similarities – cancer-ridden girl meets eccentric boy – however, Earl eclipse the latter through a realistic and truthful portrayal of pure, downright friendship. What is so refreshing about the film is that is highlights the growing and authentic friendship between Greg and Rachel, untouched by sappy, love and relationship factors often frequented by young adult films.
Theatregoers, saddled with presumptions of Fault-like themes, would expect to be exposed to devastating waterfall tears like the aforementioned film has done. However, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl continues its trailblazing trajectory by surprising audiences with a heap full of comic relief. It’s laughter and an overwhelming sense of euphoria that attacks the audience, making them helplessly fall in love with the delightful story and its endearing characters. Notwithstanding the joy, the film is built on the premise of the “dying girl”. While the film keeps on traversing the lines between delight and despair, the film’s emotional conclusion proved to be a melancholic strike to the heart.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is resounding, sensational and enchanting – one of 2015’s must watch is a heartbreakingly delightful portrayal of true, unbreakable friendship.
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