With a title that includes the words ‘Dying Girl’ you can fully expect its not going to have a happy ending. Quirky characters, refreshingly humorous dialogue, awkward teens and the tragedy of cancer combine to make Me Earl & The Dying Girl a modern engaging coming of age story. Thomas Mann plays Greg a teenager doing his best to coast through high school life without drawing too much attention to himself. Afraid to form close personal attachments his social life among his peers is confined to short not committal interactions which keeps him at arms length from everyone.
His one close friend is Earl (RJ Cyler making his movie debut) who he refers to as his ‘co-worker’. Earl is from the wrong side of town and a somewhat broken home while Greg lives in a more wholesome environment with two parents who are more than a little involved in his life. He and Earl share a love of film making and together have produced a string of parody movies based on cinematic classics such as A Clockwork Orange (A Sockwork Orange), Vertigo (Vere’d He Go?) and Death in Venice (Death in Tennis). The parodies themselves are pure genius and the movie references will certainly entertain the serious movie fan.
When Greg’s mum learns that a neighbours daughter has cancer, she insists on Greg taking the chance to do something good and be a friend to her. Intrigued by Greg’s awkward honesty and self deprecating nature the two begin to form a bond as she comes to terms with her illness. Before long she and Greg are spending most days together and as her cancer spreads their friendship deepens to a level neither ever expected. Cooke’s portrayal of the emotional roller-coaster Rachel’s character is facing is unsettlingly real.
While Greg and Rachel’s relationship has grown, so too has Earl and Rachel’s and he shares some their home-made movies with her. This prompts them to work on making a movie for Rachel. As her condition worsens they struggle to finish the movie. Rachel starts to give up her fight which in turn prompts a fight between her and Greg and one between Greg and Earl. Frightened of losing her and afraid for his future without her Greg manages to channel his feelings into finishing the movie before its too late.
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (American Horror Story) and based on the book and screenplay by Jesse Andrews Me Earl & The Dying Girl is interesting, engaging and has enough tragedy to pull on the heart strings. It may not please everyone but it makes a nice change to the typical American teen high school based movies we are all so used to. I’m giving it 3.5 out of 5. Check out the trailer below.