Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a 2015 indie dramedy film directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and starring Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke. It won the highest honor at the Sundance Film Festival and arguably so as it is an incredible and moving film.
It is about a teenager Greg who is ordered by his mom to start hanging out with Rachel, a girl diagnosed with leukemia. And along with his friend Earl, he starts to care about her and they start a friendship. The story, although very familiar in premise, is still pretty authentic in execution as it has some parts that are so original but also sophisticated. It is riveting throughout the whole running time and I was genuinely interested and cared for most of the characters. Its three-act structure is also pretty well realized and edited with the last parts being simply amazing.
Now, the only problem I’ve had with the story is its first act or so. And let me get that out of the way first as it is the only truly bothersome thing in the movie. It is pretentious in its protagonist and his lines and way too energetic and also too parodying in nature of teen films. It just started with that unfortunate tone to it that made me worry about the whole film, but thankfully that was only the beginning as it later started being much more relatable and likable.
The ending is what made this movie resonate in my opinion. The whole third act is not only incredibly inventive with some stunning detail and imagery, but also beautifully shot and wonderfully silent which greatly contrasted the previous parts of the movie which were all very talkative in nature. But the filmmakers made this whole prolonged sequence stand out because it is silent and is fueled with endless power and beauty, but also sophistication and truth. It is so important because it shows you how even after a person dies, you can still learn about him/her. But it shows that that happens to those special people, those who had many interests and left many details and pieces behind them. And by having the protagonist explore those pieces, you have this fascinating look into a person’s life and hobbies in a truly breathtaking and just beautiful sequence. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is far from a perfect movie, but it has a perfect ending which is among the very best in recent years for sure.
Now, the characters are wonderfully developed due to a phenomenal script and excellent characterization. Greg may be unlikable, but he is realistic in that as he reminds you of so many teenagers you actually knew. His troubles, his personality and everything about him is wonderfully realistic and relevant, greatly realized. Also, his relationship with Rachel is the highlight here. Speaking of her, she is amazing. She is not glorified, but rather an inherently sympathetic and likable person that you genuinely root for. Her smile, her behavior and her care for Greg all made me like her the most here and she is definitely the finest character in the movie. Earl is an interesting one. He started off as this typical black sidekick character that only made sexual jokes and that did not appeal to me at all. However, I changed my mind about him later on as he showed his true nature in the second half with some really dramatic dialogue scenes with him and Greg. He showed he was a good person and again grounded in reality.
As for the supporting characters, Greg’s parents, mostly mother is a nicely written character with some great scenes as well. The teachers are also okay, but overall the adults are lacking when compared to teenagers but that is okay as they are not the center of the attention. But the acting is magnificent. Each and every actor did a marvelous job and that made the movie all the more remarkable. I simply love that they for once chose young actors for the roles and pretty unknown at that. That lent to a lot of realism. But they are all very competent too. Thomas Mann is stupendous and he did such a good job as Greg that he became him. Also, Olivia Cooke is terrific with a powerful performance as well. But all of the others are excellent as well with Ronald Cyler II being surprisingly good in his role.
Now, the humor is weird. And at first I thought it was off-putting, but I did come to like it in the film’s later parts. The goofy humor especially from Greg was new and interesting but it worked and strengthened the characters’ relationships in the process. Also, some of the moments are very awkward and all so funny, just as in real life. The whole movie is so rooted in reality that I appreciated it a lot. It is also charming at times, but also highly memorable and even authentic. It has a sophisticated script and the pacing is great. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is expertly shot with some of the scenes being breathtaking in execution with such stunning photography and camera choices at display. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directed it with great style, but it is the dialogue that is truly the highlight as well as the deftly handled with tone and clear message. It also has a solid score and it is just beautiful to behold.
This is one powerful film, moving and very sophisticated. It has such a great script, terrific performances from its talented young cast, likable and realistic characters and it is just so realistic but also so emotional as well with goofy humor, excellent direction and some stunning photography at display. Me Earl and the Dying Girl is far from a perfect movie as it has an annoying beginning, but its ending is perfect, incredibly satisfying, moving and just so authentic, inventive and breathtaking to behold with a clear message and powerful emotion. It is one of the best endings in recent memory and the film is one of the most sophisticated teen films out there.