“So if this was a touching romantic story this is probably where a new feeling would wash over me and suddenly we would be furiously making out with the fire of a thousand suns. But this isn’t a touching romantic story.”
Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Starring: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke
Synopsis: Under the duress of his mother, socially awkward high schooler Greg (Thomas Mann) is harassed into spending time with Olivia Cooke’s, Rachel, who’s been diagnosed with leukaemia.
Quirky, emotional, whimsical, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl takes a subject matter close to many and weaves a tale not just of heartache, but also of friendship and life itself. It’s not afraid to delve into the darker territories that an illness such as leukaemia brings, but rather it prefers to use the illness as a method of exploring the effect that it has on Rachel – the film’s “Dying Girl” – her new friend Greg, and Earl, Greg’s “coworker”. The majority of the focus here is on Rachel and Greg’s non-traditional relationship, which leaves Earl sidelined, unfortunately so as RJ Cyler is fantastic. He’s the level-headed yin to Greg’s self-centred yang.
There’s an argument to be made that Greg’s selfish behaviour undermines Rachel’s struggles, and that a focus on him marginalises her illness to the film’s detriment, but he never falls into irredeemable territory, instead growing as a character over the duration of his and Rachel’s time together. Thomas Mann’s performance fits the character, and the character fits the film’s little world. Without Olivia Cooke’s empathetic and sweet turn as Rachel though it might just have been a bit of a darker film. She makes it OK to laugh, to cry, and to laugh so hard that you cry. She’s been doing just this for years on Bates Motel: taking what is on paper a tragic character, and making her relatable and funny, and she’s refined the formula beautifully here. Laugh and cry you most certainly will.
Rating (out of 5):