Sundance 2015: 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' Touches the Heart
by Alex Billington
January 26, 2015
It's best not to get too sappy, but I can't help it with this film. It had me, and almost everyone in the theater, wiping away tears. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is another wonderful surprise gem from Sundance 2015 that is inspiring, entertaining, moving and made for anyone who has a heart (which is, technically, everyone but you know what I mean). It's a film made by die-hard film lovers that tells a very heartbreaking but sincere story not of young romance, but of young enthusiasm, a love for people and the joy of making them smile. It's built around sadness yet inspired by the pursuit of happiness, and it will make everyone cry.
Based on Jesse Andrews' book of the same name, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is about a high schooler named Greg, played by Thomas Mann, in his senior year. He is "co-workers" (aka best friends) with Earl, played by RJ Cyler, and we learn over the course of the film that the two fell in love with classics/foreign films growing up and are aspiring filmmakers, making goofy homemade parodies of their favorites. This ties directly into the rest of the plot, as we soon meet Rachel played by Olivia Cooke, a girl who is diagnosed with leukemia. Greg and Earl make a movie for her, and well, the rest you just have to see for yourself. But let's just say it takes some unique turns that were unexpected, and yet it remains thoughtful and endearing.
This is director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's second feature film, following The Town That Dreaded Sundown remake from last year, and he's quite a talent. There's an obvious film-lover feeling to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl that permeates every scene, from the homemade remakes to the storytelling itself and the way the film is wrapped around Greg making a video for this charming girl. It's engaging to watch, and even more emotional to experience. Even if you think you're one of those though guys who won't cry, and even though we've all seen 50/50 and know what's coming, this one still hits your right in the heart. But I also couldn't help but walk out with a smile because it's such a beautiful film, truly original and unforgettable.
At Sundance, most films that make it in here are well-made; and they usually balance being smart, funny and touching in some way. But it's the way that balance works out, and how it all mixes together, so to say, that makes certain films better than others. With this film, the formula works so well, and the balance is so perfect, that it's easy to fall for this one even if you're sobbing through half of it. The performances from the two leads are exceptional and the story pulls viewers in with genuine humor and heart. Narration is used a bit too often when it could've relied on the dialogue alone, and some of the goofier moments feel a bit out of place (even though they are earnest), but they're minor distractions that barely detract from its excellence.
This was another discovery of Sundance that I was unfamiliar with before the fest began, it wasn't even on my radar, but I'm so glad I was able to see it. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a courageous reminder of how sentimental and meaningful the best films can be. See this one blind, and you'll fall in love with it, too.
Alex's Sundance 2015 Rating: 9 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing