by Heinrich Domingo
As cinephiles, you will have hundreds if not thousands of films to watch in a lifetime. Among this pile of movies, some will linger in your memory forever as you consciously memorize each of their frames. Spirited Away, Shawshank Redemption, and Into the Wild. For others, they might not be great but they will insist to own up a space in your memory. Final Destination, Attack on Titans, and Shark Attack 3: Megalodon. Lastly, there are those which you wish to remember for their cinematic ingenuity but your long term memory just fails to record them. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
The story began with a narration of Greg’s (played by Thomas Mann) journey in creating a film that ‘literally killed someone’. It does not bear pretention of being beautiful or artsy. The audience perspective is then positioned on the lens of his quirky male teenager persona. For him, there exists a social order where everyone is positioned in their own places. A disturbance of this arrangement shall result in chaos. For the past years, Greg has kept safe his status quo in the fear of exposing his vulnerability. Everything is in order until he befriended a cancer patient named Rachel (played by Olivia Cooke).
The film jumps off from the dynamics of Greg’s friendship between Rachel and his childhood friend Earl (played by RJ Cyler). The trio’s adventure is reminiscent of the story of Isabelle, Matthew, and Theo in The Dreamers (2003) sans sexual explorations. All are bonded together by their intention to seize the moment and to enjoy their last days in high school. This seemingly cheesy plot is made more complex through including the elements of career choices, filial relations, and scholastic struggle.
Beyond all the components of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the most interesting aspect is Greg and Earl’s filmmaking career. The display of raw, homemade films is a treat to anyone who understands and appreciates the art of film creation. In addition, there were flashes of classical films introduced as the duo’s inspiration for their outputs. There is a unique beauty of film pieces that are made in a crude manner.
The movie, without question, was an attempt to incorporate intellectual discourse in a coming-of-age film. Beyond a social commentary of growing up and going to college, it is also a story of a cancer battle, class struggle, meta-film, family relations, eccentricity, and many others. As it delivers all these concepts, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was lost in the middle. It is no doubt then that we, as viewers, find it difficult to keep this film in our chest of favorites. Despite its complexity and exquisiteness, the film failed to throw one strong, unified punch that could’ve left a mark on us.