FILM REVIEW: 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' Tops 'The Fault In Our Stars' and Brings You to Tears
'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' is one of the best coming of age films you will ever watch. If last year's 'The Fault in Our Stars' had me shedding a tear, 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' had tears streaming down my face. And not just once. Jesse Andrews adapts his novel alongside director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, making for an emotional roller-coaster that doesn't hesitate to make the fall as cry-worthy as it can. I promise if you feel nothing you are dead inside. Jesse Andrews does a wonderful job adapting his novel that on paper simply should not succeed beyond functionality. The premise sounds silly enough - boy befriends sick girl, boy likes to make movies, boy makes movie for girl. The steps unfold to you piece by piece, and Andrews does an exceptional job of maintaining the integrity of his book without compromising the film's take on the source material.
If anything is certain, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's direction, shot selection, tracking shots and camera angles are innovative and speak from a genuine desire to create a fresh experience like no other. Just because girls with cancer, teen-fiction and coming of age are all the rage right now doesn't mean Gomez-Rejon can't switch it up with sweeping confidence. Without going into specifics, there are an endless stream of inventive shots throughout the movie, provoking the audience to engage even more with what's in front of them. It's different, it excites and it demands appreciation.
Despite what you may think, M&E&TDG is sincerely funny at times. The strengths of its emotional drive and comedic moments are coupled with a witty script that doesn't shy away from showing just how awkward teenagers are in reality. They are not eloquent, are rarely thoughtful and say hurtful things without knowing. Teenagers are stupid, and Andrews' script takes us to a place we've all been.
No matter the plot, the message or how good camera angles are manipulated, the film will fall apart without good actors. Thomas Mann takes the lead as our socially awkward protagonist, whom enjoys making films with his unannounced best friend Earl (RJ Cyler). Mann is more than just a whiny teenager, and Cyler, though wielding relatively minimal screen-time, absolutely shines with an emotional outburst that puts his talent on show. Connie Britton, Nick Offerman, Jon Bernthal and Molly Shannon play fantastic supporting roles in the movie. Britton and Offerman play tough but fair mum and eccentric father to Greg, Bernthal the cool but wise history teacher, and Shannon the mother that can't deal with her daughter's illness.
At the centre of it all, Olivia Cooke plays Rachel, the classmate of Greg just diagnosed with cancer. Rachel doesn't know how to react, she is initially quiet, awkward and not sure what to make of her cancer. As the plot takes off, Rachel's shields slowly fall apart and we see the suffering on her face, in the way she sits, in the silent treatment she gives Greg. It is heartbreaking to see Rachel's emotional journey, so much so that you aren't manipulated to cry, but you want to because this story demands it. After all, John Green once said "Pain demands to be felt."
Furthermore, one unique sensibility is the way M&E&TDG caters to younger generations and older adults. There are a number of film references that pass over the heads of those too young and prompt laughs from the older crowd, but that doesn't take away from either demographic. It's a movie about teenagers and the future at its core, but its a story that tells a universal tale.
'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' is a movie that is hard to watch again and again, probably because my heart couldn't handle the trauma. Nevertheless, few films take on the seemingly tired material of teenage fiction and cancer kids, but Andrews and Gomez-Rejon have knocked it out of the ballpark with this one. If you have a heart and can bear both laughter and tears, watch this movie.
Playback Rating: 4.5/5
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