It is too often said that the next generation are self-absorbed and more interested in a selfie than in learning more about themselves. Life is more about fitting in than finding out, and everything is transitory. So what would happen to turn these ideas of selfish and wasted youth around?
Greg Gains (Thomas Mann) has his high school life sorted. He mixes with everyone just enough to negate the harsh hierarchy of high school society, but not enough to become a threat or too associated with any of them. Such is his attempt at disconnection he even refers to his best (and only) friend Earl (Ronal Cyler II) as his “colleague.” This all changes when one of his classmates Rachael (Olivia Cooke) is diagnosed with leukaemia. What blossoms from an initial forced encounter is a friendship that will change all of their lives forever.
I know that this synopsis sounds like your cliché, obviously manipulative teen with incurable disease flick - think 'The Fault In Our Stars'. While many of the elements are comparable, what this film has that pushes it well beyond the average is its quirky sense of self. Greg and Earl are obsessed with cinema - really obsessed. They make their own parodies of classics, but it is something they don’t tell anyone. I can’t stress this enough, they are adorable and funny and wonderful. These coupled with the film's animations make the movie light enough to deal with the intense subject matter. So well-handled is this film in both its direction by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and in its writing by Jesse Andrews (author of the original book) that there is very little you can fault with it. While you think the title would be a giveaway as to the potential manipulation you could expect, it doesn't come in any form you would anticipate, with emotion derived from the most unusual of moments.
What this film has that pushes it well beyond the average is its quirky sense of self.
There are two absolute standout performances in this film, and while the young cast do an incredible job, it is Nick Offerman as the quirky father, a Professor in Sociology with tenure and the reason for the boys' love of cinema, is a perfect casting – he really can do no wrong. Molly Shannon as Rachael’s mother is heartbreaking; she captures the helplessness in the face of the disease that is understated but perfect. The borderline alcoholic she is towards the end of the film isn’t something you judge her for, it's just her coping as well as she can which is ultimately and devastatingly so human. Molly Shannon needs to be in more things.
While this is most likely aimed at a young adult audience, it will certainly resonate beyond that. A parent's worst nightmare, a friend's worst fear, this film's subject will certainly change the way you think about those around you. As an aside, there is a mention of ‘Ding-a-Dong’ the Dutch song that won the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest during the film, which for me made things hit home even harder! ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ will have you thinking, laughing and in all honestly probably crying - but believe me, it is all worth it for this gem of a movie.