When I went into this film, my expectations were relatively middling, I wasn't expecting too much but nothing too bad. However, I certainly wasn't expecting Me, Earl & The Dying Girl to be absolutely brilliant! In the past few years, there have been plenty of "dramedys", from The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns to If I Stay, both of which are harmless, decent viewing experiences but nothing substantial to really leave an impression or stay with you long after.
That's why this film is the exception, The Dying Girl not only has a great story to boot, it also makes the effort to show off its technicality and style, making the film a memorable, well-crafted and enjoyable experience that deserves more recognition, seeing as this film went by all too quietly and only made $9,000,000 on its $8,000,000 budget. For those that haven't seen it, hopefully this review will get you interested and eventually on a mission to hunt this film down and watch it!
Thomas Mann (Project X, Hansel & Gretel) is exceptional as self-hating, awkward lanky high schooler Greg, who is forced to look after terminal patient/fellow student Rachel, played by the incredibly talented Olivia Cooke (Ouija), who deftly balances stress, denial and the realisation of death, leaving her completely lost and incapable of carrying on. These two performances are some of the finest of 2015, Mann and Rachel have sweet chemistry that never enters cheesy territory, and when their characters argue and take a break from one another, they carry the weight of the films smooth shift of tone on their shoulders with ease. RJ Cyler as Earl is really cool, albeit slightly underused, and plays a good foil to Thomas Mann's Greg, their interactions are mostly through one or two words, they establish their solid relationship convincingly without using expositional lines of dialogue.
The supporting cast are stellar, Molly Shannon is as funny as ever as Rachel's Mum Denise, who constantly breaks down about her daughter's situation, but she makes it funny without being too over the top. Nick Offerman and Connie Britton make a superb Mum and Dad as Greg's overbearing, quirky parents. This cast couldn't be any more packed with talent, and no one is left in the cold with a small role, they each have some sort of impact upon the overall narrative, therefore making the ending rather impactful. And that's where one of my main criticisms lays, the ending.
I expected the ending to be very hard hitting and emotional. There was a clear build-up to the finale, with Greg and Rachel laying in a hospital bed, with the projector on the wall ready to show the short film Greg made for Rachel as a tribute. However, I felt the score for this scene was poor and very loud, the video itself was understandably artsy, in relation to the characters style and taste, but it had no emotional grip on me and as a whole, was an underwhelming end, an ending that kept going on. However, spoiler alert, when Rachel dies, it comes as a shock when this moment happens, and the funeral and the wake scene after this were more powerful than anything beforehand, as all the characters come together to mourn. It's sweet, well acted and directed superbly, never once does director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon indulge in soppiness or heavy-handedness.
What I most admire about this film is the camerawork, editing and style. Gomez-Rejon and his cinematographer use wide lens for the majority of scenes and the composition of props in the setting fascinates, the colour palette for each characters home is different in the most vibrant manner, especially the bright yellows and deep oranges in Rachel's room, which is a clear juxtaposition to what she's feeling inside, dark and dim.
The 360 panning shots, crash zooms, smooth tracking shots and high angles shots are so creative, I didn't predict this film would boast such technical prowess. The editing is seamless, transitions are so smooth you barely register. That's why Me, Earl & The Dying Girl is such an enjoyable film, it surprises you both with its acting, technicality and direction. As one of the most underrated films of 2015, don't miss out on this gem.