Me and Earl and the dying girl is a different, soulful take on the coming-of-age-genre-though muddled up by the melancholia of its characters, still is able to sell its keyword: strong and meaningful friendships.
Plot: High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer. It stars Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke; directed by Alfonso Gomez Rejon.
It’s not as if it snubs some of the high school elements surrounding it: hot girls, future college applications and so on. But the specific objective of the director is crystal clear: “let’s make a high school film that doesn’t fall into the romantic or comedy genre” even when there are temptations to sway it to either side. And the result is a slowly-paced, at-times-boring-film that you only begin to appreciate when you realise the initial reason for the build up-especially in the last thirty minutes.
Thomas Mann who plays Greg makes up for an interesting character when we meet him in the film: keeping a low profile by avoiding publicity stunts and blending in into every caucus. But however important, somehow self-centred and alone he is, his development and significance to the plot of the film comes as a result of his forced meeting with the “dying girl”.
I saw a review which compared the film to 2014’s “The Fault in our Stars”. True, in the sense there are similar themes between the two films: the part about a character who is suffering from a terminal disease. But I can also remember going into 30 minutes in this film and saying to myself: Oh! this looks like “The perks of being a wall flower” when looking at it from the perspective that there aren’t much cheerful moments in this film. The characters are either sad or wallow in self pity. And even characters like Earl, where nothing much is revealed about him, he still carries this posture of having issues.
The most touching scenes in the film comes during Jon Bernthal’s one minute speech about learning more about a person after they are dead than when they are alive, which plays out exactly during the end of the film where Greg discovers more about “the dying girl” in her death. Entertainment wise, this film fails. Audience looking for thrills and sporadic twists should avoid this. It is boring, very. But the affirmative of the film are the camera work, the off-beat milieu in suburban Pittsburgh- the faded cinematography also. All the above characteristics aim to some way resemble (Birdman)- considering that both main characters are film makers.
Finally, what I see myself liking about this film is the character development of Greg. The film starts with him writing a book and the chapters of that book are laid out in chapters for the whole film. Interestingly, each chapter serves as a learning opportunity for Greg. And though the director bypasses how he puts that learning experience to use. Still, there is this lingering feeling that his experiences are going to be an important tool in his life making decisions. Moreover, the human-to-human interactions are natural-highlighting on the highs and lows of everyday relationship. And though one of those interactions is with the “dying girl” (played by Olivia Cooke)-zero attempts are made to make us feel pity for her.