Film Review: Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

I had simply passed a tertiary glance towards Me and Earl and The Dying Girl and moved on. The name gives nothing away, the poster is minimalistic and judging a book by it’s cover, it appeared to be nothing more than a simple throwaway teenage rom-com, albeit set within a joyless subject. Cancer.

Listening to Empire Magazine’s weekly podcast, however, they started raving about it. They gave it 4 stars, arguing that it could have even been 5, and said that it was “the summer’s most sincere and beautiful indie”. Comparisons were made to The Fault In Our Stars, but with added compassion and clarity, and I sat there listening, wondering, if I’d completely misjudged it. If in fact, this was a hidden gem of a film that would pack an emotional punch way above it’s weight.

Empire Film Podcast Logo

So, as I took my seat in the cinema, only to realise I was getting my own private showing (apparently they were expecting so many people they hadn’t even bothered cleaning the rubbish away from the previous patrons) I really didn’t know quite what to expect. My family has a personal connection with Cancer, and backed up by Empire’s review, I had thought I’d have the heart strings tugged and the emotions of previous memories relived but instead, Me And Earl And The Dying Girl was sadly, just dull. It’s even verging on boring. The problem is that it’s the type of film that doesn’t really know what it wants to say or how to say it.

I think the first thing is that while the film involves Cancer, it doesn’t really rotate around it. It’s a side plot and instead, it’s main focus is on the titular Me. Who is actually Greg and is played by Thomas Mann. The problem is the character is just too implausible, goofy and immature to be believable or interesting. He just didn’t seem realistic and he’s forced to live a life that just couldn’t exist.

Even worse though is that he is then placed into a world that is inhabited by a set of supporting characters that are so hyper-real and impossibly fake that they destroy the tone of the film. Everything is clichéd and stereotyped and impossible to knit together. I think it’s meant to make the film feel light and fun and keep it away from the cancerous elephant lurking on the edge but it doesn’t work, instead just leaving this horrible mess that consumes any hope of a likeable or relatable story.

Olivia Cooke, Thomas Mann & RJ Cyler - Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

It isn’t all bad though because while 90% of the characters are impossible, Earl, played by RJ Cyler, is engaging and borders on being the one real saving grace in the whole film. He’s the only character that feels real but sadly, is underutilized. Too often ignored or overlooked which is so frustrating as he’s the only character to feel like he has a living, breathing personality rather than a plot point. He’s the only character you feel like you actually want to get to know. Since I’ve spoken about Greg and Earl, it seems fair to finish off the main characters. Olivia Cooke stars as Rachel, the dying girl, and is good but once again pushed a side too often. Her character isn’t as interesting as Earl either and annoyingly, I kept thinking “she looks scarily like Chloë Grace Moretz, I wonder if she’s related?”. She’s not, but it meant I never quite relaxed into her performance as much as I probably otherwise would have.

Even worse than is faux-teenage paint by numbers world they inhabit is the fact the film feels very, very long. It’s only 105 minutes, but it draws everything out in such a way that it just carries on and on and on. It’s not slow, you don’t feel like it’s lacking motion but because nothing really ever happens there is nothing to draw you in or make you subconsciously lost in the story. You, therefore, feel every syllable, cut and piece of dialogue. The story is just presented as a melancholic monotonous exhale, followed by a sigh, that ticks religiously forward.

It might stand a chance of being saved if it was funny, but as with everything else, it missed that mark to. The jokes are forced and predictable and formulaic. I will admit, I laughed once. But it was only a quick chirping laugh. A chuckled hiccup. Then I was back to yawning and looking at my watch, wondering if I’d stuffed up and this movie was in fact 3 hours long.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon - Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

Me Earl And The Dying Girl does find some emotion and soul in the final 20 minutes, but by then it’s a case of “too little too late” and what emotion is stumbles across is misplaces just as quickly. It’s more of a brief interlude from the standard monotony than a revelation. It’s also completely frustrating because it gets this moment of clarity, finding some warmth and passion, because it finally ditches the stereotyped, impossible world and looks solely at the characters and their thoughts and gives them some depth. It’s ends up being a 20 minute teasing of what director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon could have actually given you.

I wasn’t disappointed by Me And Earl And The Dying Girl. I didn’t know what to expect and I found a film that while leaving me bored, didn’t really offend it or make me regret seeing it. The problem was that it just doesn’t offer anything new or give you a reason to really want to watch it. There are far, far better films out there tackling the elephant of Cancer in a more comedic yet touching way. The previously mentioned The Fault In Our Stars being one, 50/50 being another and so, I’ve been left having passed an afternoon watching a film that’s done nothing to educate, interest or change my life. It just presented it’s story in a poor way, taking longer than it should to never really make any point at all.

5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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