Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Greg is coasting through senior year of high school as anonymously as possible, avoiding social interactions like the plague while secretly making spirited, bizarre films with Earl, his only friend. But both his anonymity and friendship threaten to unravel when his mother forces him to befriend a classmate with leukemia.
"As cool as a multi-coloured popsicle."

Everywhere you look there are teenage movies. High school has become Ground Zero, it seems. "Everything is awesome," they sang in The Lego Movie.

What about the prom? What about it, dude? The prom rocks. Who are you taking? Do you care enough?

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Suddenly out of this miasmic fog of self generated passion and unrequited lust and lessons missed comes the dying girl. Me, also. And Earl.

Suddenly you have a movie that isn't like the others. Due to the influence of social media and the fact that kids are smart phone smart and seldom look at a book visual expression becomes a slip slidey panorama, passed in a blink, the collage of our times.

Greg (Thomas Mann) is a nerd. He's 17, or something, living at home with a dominant, interfering mother and an eccentric father in what looks like Californian middle class comfort. His best friend Earl (R J Cyler) is black from the other side of town. They've been buds since kindegarten and have made 42 piss-taking short films together.

Earl doesn't smile much any more. Greg doesn't smile either. He reckons the only way to survive high school is to be invisible. This means you don't stand out, don't join a gang or clique, stay ordinary.

Greg is trapped. As well as school which sucks and could kill him there is home which represents everything he hates. He's not a rebel so much as someone who sees through the Band Aid phoniness and commercial bullshit of modern life. His silly films are a statement. Of what? Doesn't matter. He's the Holden Caulfield of his year, the boy who doesn't want to belong.

The dying girl? That's Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who lives in the neighborhood with an alcoholic mother. Greg doesn't know her but is forced by The Great Authority (his mom) to go visit 'cause she's been diagnosed with leukaemia and isn't expected to, you know, live long.

He doesn't want to go, but does, to shut The Great A up, and it turns out they sort of get along because they speak what they feel. They talk about cushions quite a lot. Cushions/death? Where's the difference?

The film is narrated and has witty chapter headings and looks as cool as a multi-coloured popsicle. He keeps telling the audience - that's us - you think she's going to die in my arms, but she doesn't, it's not that kind of movie.

You really like this kid. You like them all. The adults are living their lives in Denial Canyon while Rachel loses her hair which makes her feel ugly. Greg says he has a face like a groundhog. He knows about ugly. She thinks about squirrels. And her dad. And she talks about giving up.

He wears a tux for the prom. Brian Eno's music is great. He tells her good people don't give up.

It's true. They don't. And what is true is real, right? That's never easy.

This is a film about never easy. It's also about how to survive in the teenage jungle.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2015
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Me And Earl And The Dying Girl packshot
How to be a teenager without losing your life and why helping a friend who is sick need not be an exercise in sentimental wishwash
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Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Writer: Jesse Andrews, based on his novel

Starring: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Katherine C. Hughes, Matt Bennett, Bobb'e J. Thompson

Year: 2015

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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