This has been a most wonderful weekend for movies, and two of the films I saw haven't even come out yet. There's Jurassic World, which had me tearing up with nostalgia at one point, and then there's Inside Out, which obviously caused me to cry very, very hard. I even cried the second time I watched it, and I cried more frequently too. Then there's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which, seeings as how it deals with the topic of cancer in a light hearted yet completely honest way, I figured I would cry in. To my surprise, not one tear was shed during my viewing of this film. Not one. It looks like Inside Out emotionally drained me, leaving no tears left to cry with.
The film follows the story of Greg (Thomas Mann), a teenager in his final year of high school. He does his best to stay invisible, all while maintaining a friendship with essentially everybody in the school, especially Earl (RJ Cyler), who he's known since childhood. After a fellow student, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), is diagnosed with cancer, Greg's mum (Connie Britton) and dad (Nick Offerman) encourage him to spend some time with her. And he does. While their initial encounters can get a little uncomfortable, as the two spend more time together, they progressively become closer friends.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl plays out like a more mature, more entertaining and just all round better version of The Fault in Our Stars. I'm not at all trying to insult the movie here as I love it to pieces and own it on blu-ray, but when compared to this movie, The Fault In Our Stars is child play. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl cuts the fat and reveals the truth, providing us with a much more human and engaging story than most cancer movies before it, perhaps with the exception of 50/50, which is a film I will cry endlessly in upon each viewing.
There's no lollygagging here. This film is nothing but the cold, hard, honest truth, and this truth isn't always as depressing and bleak as one would think. The film, and I refuse to write the title down again until the conclusion because it's just going to take up so much of my time, is full of humour, always looking at the brighter side of life. No matter what the situation is, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and screenwriter/author Jesse Andrews always approach the situation with a smile on their face.
Thankfully, however, they know when to really dial down the humour. They know when it's time to stop making fun of everything and let the characters have an honest, human conversation, and it's these scenes that actually stand out more in my mind than some of the other scenes. I may not have drawn a tear during this film, but everybody else around me did and I can completely understand why. It's a film that plays with your heart strings, pulling them in every direction. The on-screen characters are written so brilliantly that I was able to invest in their lives, and when the going got rough, I felt I was able to stand by their side and embrace their pain.
While all the performances are absolutely terrific, the three title characters all at the top of their game, it's the cinematography and the direction that I was most impressed with. The film plays out like a Wes Anderson movie, featuring highly stylised camera movements and title cards that add a whole new layer to everything. There's even a re-occuring reference to a pair of animals, and this reference is shown through stop-motion animation. It's an utter delight to watch and it rushes past very quickly. It's a film that makes you completely loose track of time, and I'm okay with that.
To sum up, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a quirky, hilarious and honest look at cancer that never feels overly sentimental, despite being somewhat predictable. It doesn't fluster around and it gets the job done. Bravo, indeed.
4 1/2 Stars