Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a touching and very funny film directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and written by Jesse Andrews (based on Andrews’ 2012 debut novel of the same name), made a great impression on the 62nd Sydney Film Festival audience.
In his senior year at a Pittsburg high school, Greggs tries to remain invisible to finish the term smoothly while making low-budget films in his spare time with his “co-worker” Earl. One day, it is revealed that his schoolmate Rachel has leukemia.
Gregg’s mother forces him to be friends with Rachel and to support her during this tough period. Both teenagers are reluctant at first but in time a wonderful friendship begins – with its ups and downs. Then Earl and Gregg decide to make a film for Rachel.
What could have been just another story about teenagers in their final year of school, discovering romance or stressing about college, is instead a wonderfully funny independent film about friendship, with a touch of poetry.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is beautifully made, with symmetric shots and an American vintage touch –Gregg and Earl’s low-budget re-makes of classic films, such as A Sockwork Orange and Rosemary baby carots, are hilarious.
Thomas Mann is amazing as Gregg Gaines, an awkward high school student trying to be funny but deeply insecure and afraid of standing out in the world. In a manner that is reminiscent of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, he shows that weirdness is probably the best thing that can happen. Mann is greatly talented and will surely be on Hollywood’s radar for years to come.
Olivia Cooke is equally stunning as Rachel. It is certainly challenging to embrace the character of a girl battling cancer but she does it with such grace and poetry that we almost forget the sadness in her character. The topic is emotional and hard to laugh about – it reminded me of La Guerre est Déclarée, a French film about cancer and children – but this film has a deft light touch in the way it handles the subject.
The final member of this wonderful trio set to win the hearts of audiences is Ronald Cyler II who brings to the role of Earl a touching attitude and the funniest punchlines.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has already won recognition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and the US Grand Jury Prize. The film guarantees lots of laughs but also tears: it was a delight to watch and will surely be a hit when it is released in Australia on September 9.
Note from the editor: This film took out the coveted award for best narrative feature at this year’s festival.