While compiling my top films for the year, I thought it best to at least get reviews up for the ones that will make the cut, and one of those is the excellent Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. A film that is as sensitive as it is funny, blending the indie coming of age genre effortlessly with the characteristics of a heartfelt drama.
Centred on Greg (Thomas Mann), a smarter than your average kid who believes he has unlocked the key to surviving the perilous landscape of high school by not committing to any particular social group. In his spare time he makes surreal film adaptations of famous movies (Sockwork Orange, 2:48pm Cowboy) influenced by his spaced out Dad played by Nick Offerman, with his friend/’co-worker’ Earl (RJ Cyler).
Greg’s mum insists that he goes to spend time with a girl down the road, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), by way of a forced “play-date”. This throws a number of challenges Greg’s way; he will now have to actually commit to being a friend for someone, and secondly, she’s dying of leukaemia, so the entire arrangement feels unnatural.
While the appearance of this film gives off that hipster nonchalance, being overly quirky and presenting a simplified view of the world, at its core it is an incredibly touching film with a solid message behind it. With the undercurrent of a potential impending tragedy round the corner, it maintains a level of seriousness and sincerity beneath the sarcastic and immature exterior. The script, the music and the cinematography all lend itself to this type of film, as it floats from emotion to emotion, never remaining in one place for too long. It shuffles on with odd animations and elements of the homemade films breaking up the story, and the tone manages to remain fresh and inventive.
Alphonso Gomez-Rejon’s adaptation of the 2012 novel of the same name by Jesse Andrews feels unique, despite it revisiting your typical high-school scenarios. By being careful not to isolate itself into one genre, taking more of a surreal approach while maintaining elements of realism, we get to see quite an accurate, emotionally charged perspective of a teenager thrown into a difficult situation against his will. The trouble with this selfish perspective is that Rachel is in a far worse situation, also against her will, but whose discomfort is more important?
The danger with these types of films is that it can become so formulaic and predictable, yet this goes out of its way to ensure that it doesn’t happen. A fresh-faced cast, and an ending that although (somewhat controversially) given away at the beginning of the film, it still manages to move you. There is nothing artificial about the characters in this film, nobody comes out smelling of roses, and it is this raw feeling with original messaging means that I could emotionally invest in the characters.
Judging by the box office takings, this film has been hugely underrated and deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Mismatched friendships, how to deal with a terminal illness and the struggles of surviving high-school are all tackled in a distinctive way, and it’s one of my favourite films of the year.