A small independent film, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” is pretty much exactly what you might think it is.
Greg Gaines is a social outcast muddling through high school who likes to make home movies with his friend Earl. Greg finds out that a classmate, Rachel, has developed leukemia, and at his mother’s desperate urging, he attempts to befriend her.
What originally was a request from his mother becomes much more, as Greg and Rachel quickly become inseparable best friends. Soon enough, Greg and Earl decide to make Rachel a movie before she passes away.
The title of this Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner would probably lead one to believe that it’s not the most uplifting of stories. However, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was able to navigate the somber and morose subject matter with amazing ease and keep things uplifting and often hilarious.
The chemistry between the two leads, played by Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke, was fantastic. They were able to keep things lighthearted despite the situations they were in.
The film was told as a narrative in the past from Greg’s perspective, and having his voice in the background throughout allowed the film to stay funny and keep things in a positive note when they needed to be, rather than dip in to disheartening territory.
With all that being said, the film did have moments of very real emotion and was able to create extremely authentic sections of intensity.
It’s not easy being best friends with somebody who’s dying, and as we were watching through Greg’s perspective, we were able to see that. The emotional journey that he went through was clearly translated and gave the audience a strong connection to him as he continued through the film.
Greg’s relationship with Earl was also a key component to the story being told as well as it was. Not only did he provide some necessary comic relief, Earl acted as Greg’s voice for things that he himself could not say. A complete social outcast with no self-esteem or belief in himself, Greg clearly had his own set of issues, and without Earl, those issues would not have been able to translate whatsoever.