A 2015 Sundance Film Festival winner in both the Grand Prize and Audience Award dramatic categories, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a movie that fights social consciousness and stereotypes.
Using Greg (Thomas Mann), a quirky high school crowd surfer who prefers to remain invisible amongst his peers, the film teaches us that just co-existing in society isn’t enough.
Whereas Greg initially wants to hold the neutral status of Switzerland — viewed and liked by others — he reluctantly understands that real relationships require participation.
Wallflowers wishing to remain on the social sidelines growing up can end up missing out on life’s most meaningful offerings. Or, in this case, a potential friendship.
This film attests that everyone feels out of place at times growing up. How we handle that uncomfortableness plays a part in each of our lives’ purpose and ultimate direction.
The personal social discomfort and diversity explored in this film is, by far, its greatest feat. An unlikely trio of high school friends sparks a subtle, but persuasive, message of compassion and inclusion.
As Greg warily agrees to offer support to a classmate diagnosed with leukemia, he connects with the sick girl (Olivia Cooke) — despite his repeated attempts to remain free of all social cliques and close friends outside of his longtime bestie, Earl.
Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon facilely illustrates the impact people can have on others’ lives, using comedic relief to ease viewers through several of the dying girl’s most difficult scenes. Even more appealing is how Gomez-Rejon bestows on filmgoers the notion that there’s more to be revealed about someone even after they’re gone.
Thomas Mann brings an authenticity to Greg’s character and inside high school hallways not seen since 1985’s “The Breakfast Club.” While the actors in the movie are easily believable in their struggles, Gomez-Rejon doesn’t fully invest the audience in the cast nearly enough. The movie digs deeper into the nature of human relationships than it does into the characters that form those relationships. An emotional and endearing connection to the plight of teenagers is well established, but not the personal attachment to any teen in particular.
“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a very watchable film. It’s a film that I will remember for its quirky personalities and offbeat humor. Its subtle reminders on how each of us can influence others just by spending time together or be impacted, still, by those beyond the grave is engrossing.
Less memorable are the personal stories of these young teens before their lives cross paths. If as much background had been the focused on the Dying Girl as it was on Greg — “Me and Earl and Rachel” would’ve been a more appealing and stronger movie. As it is, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a movie worth seeing, but save this teen account for later renting on Blu-ray/DVD.
Me and Earl and the
Starring: Thomas Mann, R.J. Cyler, Olivia Cooke
Rating: PG (for sexual content, drug material, language, and some thematic elements)
Run Time: 1 hour and 44 minutes