Sundance 2015 winner: Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic and Audience Award
Expected: 4 reels out of 5
My actual rating: 5 reels out of 5
Me and Earl has a view of high school that is very relatable to anyone, especially if you’ve been in high school in the last 20 years or so. The social aspect of high school can be a daunting experience. There’s a bunch of cliques and you try to associate yourself with others who have the same likes and interests. What if you don’t really fit in anywhere? The “me” part of the movie title is Greg (Thomas Mann). Greg thinks he has the terrains of high school figured out. He makes enough contact with each and every group, enough to gain passage and not really be bothered. It’s a superficial way to live a social life but why should one try to force themselves to fit in a group just to be liked. Greg’s life is not completely superficial. His closest friend is Earl (RJ Cyler), who shares a love of cinema with him. Greg’s life gets turned upside down as he befriends “the dying girl,” Rachel (Olivia Cooke). It’s a friendship that forces Greg to examine his outlook on life and his shortcomings as a person.
Thomas Mann plays Greg to perfection. I can relate to Greg in a few ways: having a similar outlook on life when I younger and a lover of cinema. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who can relate. Earl is the perfect complement to Greg: loves film, confident in himself, and doesn’t choose to conform to any one group. They share a bond of watching and making movies together. Despite knowing each other since kindergarten, Greg refers to Earl as a coworker because Greg has some issues. I can relate to this because I have a friend who I’ve worked with on some videos and movies as an editor, and he used to introduce to me to someone as “his editor.” I suppose it bothered me because it implies that I’m his and his only and although I’ve put together videos, I wouldn’t necessarily even call myself an editor. So relating to Earl’s perspective, I can see why having your friend call you a coworker can be annoying. And relating to Greg, I didn’t think highly of the videos and movies I made either.
Despite Greg’s shortcomings, Greg and the dying girl, Rachel, still manage to become friends. Even after he is forced to hang out with her because of Greg’s mom (Connie Britton). Olivia Cooke is able to give off the complexities of her character. The struggles of treatment and dealing with her own mortality. Greg tries to help her cope with it the best way he can. When a fellow classmate suggests that Greg and Earl make a video for Rachel, Greg reluctantly accepts.
One of the few things I chose to remember from classes in college was something a film teacher told us in class once. To paraphrase, he said that one of the reasons one would get into film was because it is a form of self-therapy. That there was something inside that needed to be told. Making the horrible (but awesome) movie parodies is probably not therapeutic for Greg. It ends up being a little therapeutic for Rachel as she watches his movies, as a way to help cope with being sick. A way to pass the time. Making a film for Rachel is the best expression of himself that Greg can give to Rachel even though he thinks it will be complete crap. This is the story of Greg’s senior year in high school and how it will destroy his life.
I’m a sucker for coming of age movies and this one is one of the best I’ve seen. I’m probably a little bias because I can relate to it on so many levels: sharing life views, a character I can highly relate to, a love of cinema, and it even has a song in it from one of my favorite bands. It was a therapeutic movie for me. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is an emotionally touching coming of age drama. Bolstered by some big names like Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, and Connie Britton, but it’s all about the performances of Mann, Cyler, and Cooke. It can appeal to anyone, especially to the lovers of film. It’s a movie that holds up to multiple viewings and something that will stick with you long after you’ve watched it.