‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ is a film filled with quirky fun, intentionally ridiculous visuals, and a sweet tone. However, underneath this layer of sweet bliss is a bitterly harsh and realistic film about friendship and loss. The strange combination of whimsical scenes, light and fluffy, like candy floss, then intersected with a gut punch so hard you’ll be knocked senseless is an interesting approach and this film pulls it off brilliantly.
The visual style of the film is purposefully odd and off-putting. The scenery looks beautiful but implausible, wide open corridors, singular, almost animated-looking houses, three connected, yet separate, different shaped windows. These little details are not immediately noticeable for the most part but as the film progresses become more apparent, but not in a bad way, in a way which enhances the whimsical nature of the film.
The performances are all very solid, especially those of the three main protagonists; Greg, played by Thomas Mann, Earl, played by RJ Cyler, and Rachel, played by Olivia Cooke. The chemistry between these three actors is brilliant, and the time all three are on screen together is genuinely some of the best parts of the film. Thomas Mann is a real treat to watch with his very down to earth character Gregg, Mann underplays it perfectly bringing all of the characters self-doubt and insecurities to the film in a seemingly effortless manner. Olivia Cooke as Rachel “The Dying Girl”, is equally as excellent as Mann. As the film progresses her mental state subtly changes throughout and Cooke absolutely delivered on that front, towards the end her eyes told everything the audience wasn’t shown. RJ Cyler had the least amount of screentime of the three protagonists, and was the more understated character with various hints towards his personal life given throughout the film but with no specifics mentioned. However despite this Cyler matched his two co-stars scene for scene performance wise, except one scene in the cafeteria where he has to hit someone and it looked awful, the camera work definitely didn’t help him in that regard though.
The dialogue feels genuine in this film, there aren’t many cliches, no big heroic speeches, not much discussion about cancer, just some friends hanging out and talking. While the dialogue isn’t derivative, unfortunately a lot of the story beats are. ‘X happens, then ‘Y happens’, then ‘Z’. This doesn’t really matter though because the time spent with these characters, with these friends, is thoroughly enjoyable in a way that many other films of this ilk try to be. This film just feels very homely and warm, the characters are affable, and make the audience want to spend more time with them.
‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ isn’t a perfect film, the story is very predictable, sometimes the imbalance of the tone is if great detriment to the film, and there are some unresolved scenes and character arcs Overall though, it’s a satisfying film with a lot of heart hidden under the hyper-sweet, bitter reality of the film. Settle yourself down all snug, have some tissues to spare and spend 100 minutes with some friends you’ve never met before.