12 October 2015 | luke-a-mcgowan
Brilliantly authentic and deeply touching
There are about four films that can overcome the "seen it" cynicism I have, unlock my heart and make me feel genuine feelings. In other films I can appreciate that the film is beautiful and emotional, but there are only four that can really get to me. The first was Crash, the second was The Green Mile and the third was Boyhood. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl just scored the fourth slot on that extremely small list. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's film is a beautiful cocktail of wonderful things. Its quirky and charming and witty and touching and somber and delicate and completely beautiful. Its got elements of about six of my favourite films of all time, and the fact that it slam dunked Sundance doesn't even surprise me a bit.
Thomas Mann's Greg is a weirdo. Imagine that Napoleon Dynamite went to Cady Heron's school from Mean Girls, hated all the clicks and became a cynic. Mann shades what could've been a completely unlikeable protagonist with wonderful colours and depth, so much so that when his friend Earl explains to Rachel why Greg is so averse to being friends, we realise we've actually known the whole time. That's probably the most beautiful part of Gomez- Rejon's direction - he never comes out and beats you with information, he leads you gently to it and makes you realise it yourself. RJ Cyler takes Earl, a generic Pedro-type sidekick and makes him just the slacker you'd expect, but with incredible qualities underneath. Olivia Cooke makes the audience love her with her quietly devastating portrayal of a girl with leukaemia. All I can say is that she is a worth recipient of my annual Patricia Arquette Award For Character I Most Want to Hug.
Considering this film has maybe one actor I'd ever heard of, there's a huge pool of talent even in the supporting cast. John Bernthal is good in everything. Nick Offerman is amazing as Greg's stay at home intellectual dad, and Molly Shannon steals every scene as Rachel's emotionally destroyed mother. Keep an eye out for Matt Bennett's utterly bizarre but hilarious Scott Mayhew as well.
Jesse Andrews' screenplay strikes an incredible balance between comedy and drama. Its very easy for a film about cancerous teens to become completely depressing and tedious, but the witty dialogue, incredible spikes of humour and quirky characters make the film beautiful. Andrews isn't trying to make a statement, he's just telling a story about a normal boy who strikes up a friendship with a normal girl. The dialogue is as real as any movie I've ever seen, and the use of minimal effects and hand-held camera really created an authenticity that made me walk away feeling like I've just watched a highly personal reflection, and not a work of fiction.