There are movies I really could dwell on in a lyrical way. Because it’s put together cleverly and cunningly. Or because I could empathize with the characters. Or because the humorous content was taken up throughout the story in a professional way. Call me oversensitive or sentimental. But Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is a movie that I’m extremely lyrical about. Firstly, because they tackled such an emotional subject in a very clever and witty way. Without significant effort they could have made a major tearjerker out of it, so Kleenex would suddenly see a miraculous growth of its quarterly earnings and cinemas should install additional emergency generators so they could handle the tsunami of tears. However, the end result is the opposite of that. Never before a smile and a tear were so close together.
This movie is original, sad and funny at the same time. A “coming of age” film avant la lettre; although the theme isn’t new. Teenage girl Rachel (Olivia Cooke – The Signal) is diagnosed with leukemia. But the course of this deadly disease has been depicted in a serene way. And this with the mandatory involvement of Greg (Thomas Mann) whose mother (Connie Britton) asked him in a rather authoritative way to spend some time with Rachel. What follows is an impossible friendship that grows out into an intimate relationship with understanding, support and hope as important key values. Greg is someone I could relate to because I was basically the same person at that age. A bit of an insecure individual who’s trying to make himself invisible and blend in with the crowd. The message is : make sure noone notices you and use humor, sarcasm and funny one-liners as a defense. Actually, he’s the opposite of someone like Scott Mayhew. This screwed up, freaky goth uses his eccentric appearance to demarcate a territory. Greg’s way of demarcation is to avoid everyone or to maintain superficial contacts.
The only person Greg usually has contact with is Earl (RJ Cyler). Earl is not really a friend in the strict sense of the word (according to Greg) but rather a “co-worker”. A like-minded with whom he shares a passion for the classics among films. Together they spend their free time making parodies of these classics. These extreme bad films are shown sporadically and made sure I had a few spontaneous laughs. Not because of their probably ridiculous content, but because of the quirky fictional titles such as “Raging Bullshit”, “A Sockwork Orange” or “Vere’d He Go?”. It’s fair to say that Earl is a friend for life.
The Holy Trinity is completed by Rachel. A lovable young girl facing a deadly disease and still she retains a clear look at the whole situation. Clearly someone who doesn’t want or needs pity. Despite the deadly disease, she manages to keep her character alive. She transforms from the closed, dismissive girl who resigned to her fate into a frivolous, blossoming fighter thanks to Greg’s carefree, somewhat clumsy but humorous way. This transformation is completed with one of the most moving and impressing closing scenes ever.
Each one of these are charming, irresistible interpretations, realized in a highly professional and open-minded way by three unknown young actors. This wonderful cast raise Me and Earl and The Dying Girl to an outstanding level. The end result is a poignant and touching film about friendship and at the same time an homage to classic films. It’s a relief to discover something like this among all the other commercial crap and the umpteenth exploited sequel. Finally once again a fresh, intelligent and original film. And this thanks to the wonderful acting and the willful use of non obvious film techniques (I should mention that as well). A successful end result, perfectly bypassing all the obvious clichés from the genre so it didn’t end up as a common melodrama. Masterly!
For more of Peter Pluymers’ movie reviews, check out My Opinion as a Movie-Freak
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television