For teenager Greg (Thomas Mann), high school is a hostile cluster of nations that he feels is best dealt with by using complete neutrality. He coasts from clique to clique without pledging allegiance to anyone in particular. This is his how-to guide of surviving high school life but consequently you don’t make any friends in the process.
The only person Greg lets his guard down for is his “co-worker” Earl (RJ Cyler), who comes from a grittier side of town. The two make Be Kind Rewind esque homemade remakes of art house films with Stanley Kubrick being one inspiration (A Sockwork Orange would be a great movie in real life). Greg and Earl find respite in eating lunch with their history teacher Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal), rather than face the free for all jungle that is the cafeteria.
Though we never truly find out why Greg has taken on this mentality of staying invisible in plain sight we do see right into his home life. The pasty-faced teen lives with caring but slightly overbearing parents, his mum (Connie Britton) in particular being quite hands on with her son’s life. Dad (Nick Offerman) on the other hand is little more carefree as the old hippie who introduces strange foreign films and even stranger foreign foods to Greg and Earl.
Make no mistake, this is not a 2015 version of Mean Girls with male leads. This movie will make you laugh so hard that your ribs hurt but will also make you cry with ten times more force. Greg’s mum breaks the sad news that Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a childhood friend who grew apart as the two got older, has been diagnosed with leukaemia. Very much against his and Rachel’s wishes the two are forced to spend time together. It should be said that no love blossoms between these two as there is no Fault in our Stars moments and Greg’s hilarious narration throughout the movie keeps reminding us of that. Every sappy movie life lesson cliché is shutdown by the male protagonist’s sarcasm.
Rachel, Earl and Greg spend time together and eventually find some common ground, mostly in the fact that Rachel loves watching the boys’ spin offs of vintage classic cinema. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and screenplay writer Jesse Andrews (who also penned the book of the same title) put together a delicate plot that unfolds with both humour and sorrow. For a movie that heavily touches on mortality (and that of a teenager) is actually pretty funny at the appropriate times. Rachel and Greg both find comfort in being the outcasts of regular society while Earl chimes in from time to time with his pragmatic, sometimes emotionless approach.
For everything there is to laugh about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl there is more to cry about. The serious scenes towards the end of the movie become so heavy with silence that it’s hard to imagine there’d be a dry eye left in the cinema. The casting of the film is perfect, right down to the supporting roles. Cooke proves to be a more than committed actor for this part and holds some of the most heart wrenching scenes to her name. Even though she’s facing one of life’s hardest and confusing issues Rachel doesn’t ask for sympathy and sticks to her punk rock ways.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will not only be one of the best dramedies of 2015 but one of the top movies this year period.
4 ½ out of 5