I have never understood why anyone likes The Notebook. Or the appeal of seeing The Fault in Our Stars. Why do you want to know you are going to be overcome with sadness while watching a film, something that I have derived happiness from for as long as i can remember. Sure, I’m probably not the target audience of the aforementioned and maybe that plays a part, but the idea of sadness is not something I would normally want to voluntarily experience. The thing is: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is exactly that, and I would gladly put myself through it again.
As the title suggests, the film is based around the narrator and lead character Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), his buddy and “co-worker” Earl (RJ Cyler) and the dying girl Rachel (Olivia Cooke). A formula which we have seen numerous times is in this case wrapped in this layer of comedy that makes the film very hard not to like. Nick Offerman and Connie Britton play Greg’s parents, forcing him to spend time with Rachel after she is diagnosed with cancer. Not wanting anyones sympathy or pity friendship Rachel is dismissive of Greg entirely, eventually letting her guard down to let a new friend in. The rocky start to a relationship that will help not just one but both of these youngsters is absolutely on point.
By befriending someone that knows they may not have long to live, Greg forces himself to live for someone else other than himself for once, a notion that everyone develops eventually when someone depends on them. And for the most part Greg is completely unlikable as he struggles to grip the idea that there are other people in the world other than himself. The development of Greg’s relationship with Rachel serves as the meat of this film and doesn’t lack in progression. As the friendship develops you see Greg growing up right in front of you, even if he struggles to follow through all the time.
The best part of the film are the snippets we get of Greg and Earl’s homemade movies. Grumpy Cul de Sac’s, a tribute to Scorsese’s Mean Streets and A Sockwork Orange featuring a cast of none other than sock puppets are highlights of the Greg and Earl back catalogue. Greg’s dads peculiar food habits, loading Greg’s lunchbox with some of the stranger paper bags lunches you will ever see are also a highlight. It’s not hard to see why Me and Earl won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance festival.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl does everything it can to make itself feel like something you have never seen before. From it’s weird offbeat humour to its unconventional story structure, the film feels fresh. When you get down to the nitty gritty however, this is most definitely a coming-of-age film. And you know what, it’s a damn good one. It’s funny, it’s incredibly well written and most of all it has heart. Don’t worry, you can cry, no one’s watching.
My personal hit of the Melbourne International Film Festival and one of the best movies I have seen this year. A beautiful experience.