Greg's high school life is a simple one, he doesn't belong to a specific clique but he gets along with almost everyone in school. His best friend/co-worker Earl comes from a very different background, but the two connected over their love of film and spend their free time creating Sweded versions of the films they love. And then we get to the 'Dying Girl', Rachel, a sweet young girl recently diagnosed with Leukemia who Greg is forced to hang out with and grows incredibly fond of.
From it's critical acclaim over in the states, the UK is finally getting this small coming of age movie that rocked the Sundance film festival earlier this year and it's one that you all must see. Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is a charming, wonderfully feelgood, spectacularly funny and completely heartbreaking tale of friendship that emotionally resonated with me more than any film of 2015 so far.
The film's premise on paper isn't terribly exciting, but it's all in the execution. First off, the performances here are nothing short of spectacular. Thomas Mann (Project X) is the 'Me' of the title and leads the film excellently. Greg knows everyone yet doesn't belong to a group, he spends his lunches in his History teacher's office with Earl played by RJ Cyler who gives an equally as brilliant performance. Greg is forced by his overbearing mother to hang out with Rachel, a girl Greg is only acquainted with at High School. Olivia Cooke as Rachel gives a truly beautiful performance as a girl losing herself to this awful disease. Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Jon Bernthal and Molly Shannon play supporting roles as Greg's father, mother, history teacher and Rachel's mother respectively and all do a wonderful job.
I loved all of the characters here, especially Greg who was a very different character than what I was originally expecting. He seems to have everything figured out, and Rachel is somewhat a spanner in the works of his life. Through their time together, Greg evolves, he becomes a lot more empathetic and starts to try things he wouldn't normally do. As he grows towards Rachel, her situation really begins to affect him and he starts to feel emotions that he seemingly hasn't felt in a very long time if ever.
From the moment the film began, I knew there was something quite special about the film's direction, particularly in the camera department. There is some truly beautiful shot composition and it's all very unique. Long takes are used excellently and add a whole new dimension to the already stellar performances. The camera isn't always cutting between people in conversations, the actors are allowed to really act off one another through long takes and their performances are all the better for it. There's also a very attractive fluidity and motion to the camera which made the film feel very unique.
From the premise it might seem natural that a romantic aspect would be brought into the picture, but whilst Greg and Rachel obviously care very much about each other, they stay friends and friends only. Their relationship was never rushed, the two spend an enormous amount of time together, whether that be watching Greg and Earl's sweded films or discussing how to deal with Rachel's disease, the two form a very believable and sweet friendship which started out as an obligation for Greg and became very real by the end of the story.
Mentioned above are Greg and Earl's sweded films, the two at a very young age were introduced to obscure foreign cinema by Greg's reclusive father and evolved that adoration into a hobby. They work their way through the Criterion collection, sweding everything from Midnight Cowboy to Clockwork Orange in a unique and humorous fashion. They know their films are terrible but that's what makes them so charming. Greg and Earl decide that the best way to present how they're feeling to Rachel is to make her a personal film. It's clear to see that the filmmakers are very passionate about the history of film.
At it's core, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is a film about self discovery and who you are in the world. It's a coming of age tale, about growing up, evolving, learning and connecting with yourself and the people around you. Jesse Andrews who wrote both the screenplay and the novel it's adapted from has created very authentic characters who because of their authenticity are both relatable and unpredictable. The story itself isn't completely unpredictable despite it's best efforts to throw you off it's obvious conclusion, but great movies aren't great because of their surprises, it's about the journey and the characters you experience it with.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is a director I'm unfortunately quite unfamiliar with who does some absolutely terrific work shaping these characters and the story driven by them. As I mentioned earlier, the camera work is terrific, Rejon meticulously sets the scene and masterfully works with angles and tracking shots when necessary. For one scene which really got me choked up, the camera doesn't move, Mann and Cooke perform their scene in one complete take which added a real depth to their relationship which you'll understand more upon seeing it for yourself.
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl is a heartfelt, heartwarming and ultimately heartbreaking tale of true friendship and the hardships true friendship can endure. I could not recommend the film more.
Have you seen Me And Earl And The Dying Girl? If so, let me know what you thought of the movie in the comments or on Twitter @JamesPorter97