Indie Film Review “Me, Earl, & The Dying Girl”

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First, a Recap:

Cancer. Specifically, leukemia. It’s an insidious disease. Well, who are we kidding. Cancer in any form is an insidious disease. It tears away so much of a person’s physical being while equally tearing away one’s hope for overcoming it often. How that weighs against friendship and people’s perceptions is the centerpiece of director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s newest indie effort, “Me, Earl, & the Dying Girl”. Greg (Thomas Mann) is starting his high school senior year as he always has, by being effectively invisible. Relying on a previously established habit of co-mingling with every clique just enough to seem accepted without drawing attention to himself, life is good on the outside. Only his best friend, Earl (RJ Cyler) knows him more in “depth”.

Satisfied in making horrible (but hilarious!) remakes of classic films with Earl, Greg’s life gets upended upon being forced to further befriend (at his mother’s request) and spend time with a classmate, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Initial resistance from both of them to find any way to bond without it being awkward or focusing on Rachel’s condition ensues, but the two end up finding a level of companionship that neither expected. But as they both become more and more taken into each other’s respective lives and circumstances, it shines a light on issues both have been (or not been) dealing with in regard to their futures, testing the real intricacies of friendship, understanding, and discovery about another person when surface sentiment is not enough.

Next, my Mind:

There are so many layers of, well, everything in this effort that it truly becomes a challenge to do it total justice in a quick summary.  But, in doing so, this reviewer feels it therefore leaves that much more to anticipate, discover, and enjoy about the film, should one choose to see it. Suffice it to say, the real lifeblood of this story ultimately centers on the kaleidoscope of emotions and encounters that form the evolving association between Greg and Rachel. Mann is a perfectly, and realistically, portrayed introverted teen, whose supposed satisfaction in being a nobody gets a serious blow to the head once made to hang out with Rachel, bringing him out of his shell.

Likewise, Cooke’s Rachel is so endearingly real that the viewer cannot help but be caught up in her whirlwind of emotional turmoil in dealing with a harsh disease, yet finding herself full of some new and greatly needed joy in learning about insecure Greg.  Therefore, Cyler’s Earl becomes the voice of reason, Greg’s conscious, throughout the whole affair. The moments of banter between them all, in total, is simply wonderful, cheeky, teen irreverence and absurdity, yet so infused with underlying heart, you cannot resist being caught up in the narrative. While executed in a completely different style, the film brought to mind another young adult-based indie from 2014, “The Fault In Our Stars“.  And saying that, this film does what “Stars” did so well, too. It packs an irrevocable emotional punch.

As always, this is all for your consideration and comment.  Until next time, thank you for reading!


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