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  Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Farewell Friend
Year: 2015
Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Stars: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Matt Bennett, Katherine Hughes, Masam Holden, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Gavin Deitz, Edward DeBruce III, Natalie Marchelletta, Chelsea Zhang
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: This is Greg (Thomas Mann) and he's wondering how to start his story. He can't use "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times", that’s been done, and besides you could say that about every setting for any story, so how about he gets a grip and starts to explain how he got to know Rachel (Olivia Cooke)? At school he was determined not to make friends, not that he was antisocial, he simply found it easier to drift through each group making the occasional wry comment, nothing too committed, just enough to get on with everyone, and to his mind this worked out fine for him. He did have one friend, but he preferred to call Earl (RJ Cyler) a co-worker as they indulged their love of classic cinema on home movies. But Rachel was different...

Greg had to be forced to get to know Rachel, thanks to a quirk of medical fate you'll have already guessed from the title. So essentially Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was not a tale about a young lady leaving the world prematurely, though it was that as well, but a tale of a sensitive young man fumbling his way to engaging with the world and not merely living it second hand through his beloved cinema and his perfunctory greetings to anyone he recognised at school. That, you could observe, was a rather self-centred manner of dealing with someone you know suffering a terminal illness, making it all about yourself when you were not actually dying, but adolescence can be a selfish time of life.

You had to acknowledge that "But what about meeee?!" aspect to the story as delineated by Jesse Andrews' script, based on his novel if you were going to get on with this film, and not only because the survivors find life goes on even after someone exits the stage, wondering what to do about the person-shaped hole that is not all-too-noticeable in their days. That said, you'll be aware that no matter how Rachel looks or expresses herself, Greg keeps telling us that she doesn't die at the end at all, so you may not know who to believe: him, Rachel or the title. This was also part of the movement in the twenty-tens to aim teen movies at a wider audience by having the young central characters endure sentiment-drenched hardships, not everyone's cup of tea.

Mind you, if you’re the sort who cries easily at movies you would be all over Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, it delivered precisely the catharsis it promised if you were willing to meet it halfway and allow it to manipulate those emotions, a teenage girl expiring is a very emotional subject there's no doubt about it, even if the way this supplied those feelings was to make us sorrier for Greg than Rachel. Then again, maybe we needed that character to identify with, as there won't be many viewers who have died from cancer watching, and if you've known someone with a terminal illness, no matter what age they were when it took them, you're more likely to sympathise with Greg's sense of injustice about the whole rotten situation, though that suffocation of the empathy did tend to undercut the jokes.

This was a comedy too, one of those observational indie quirkfests that sensitive folks were supposed to get on with, and on paper this read as if it could be highly resistible for those unwilling to accompany the characters on a singularly mawkish journey. And yet, maybe it was the inexorable gathering of the dawning realisation that there was no hope, not even in movieland, that by the end of the story you were genuinely interested in these people, in spite of them being fairly transparent stand-ins for real life situations that they could only aspire to be as faithful facsimiles of as they could muster. Sure, the affectation of the home movies was lifted from Be Kind Rewind, and that was more successful in the earlier effort, Earl was mostly there to dispense wisdom when he wasn't aloof, and Rachel was too close to being a lifestyle accessory for the introspective teenager, but by the close it didn't really matter. Whether it was the actors who believed in their roles, the often well-observed lines or scenes, or the gentle philosophy, this had charms perhaps beyond what it actually was. Music by Brian Eno.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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