What struck me about Me & Earl this time around was not just the cinematic homage or the quirky indieness, but the fluid movement of the camera matched with the ever-evolving score of Brian Eno. It made me appreciate this film yet again because some people might say it’s weighed down by over-trod tropes, but it leaves those in the dust. Others might criticize it for playing up to all the cinephiles out there in order to garner respect. Which might be true.
But in essence, this film resonates on such a greater level. All the side characters are fun and interesting and I’m sure all the various parodies will open the floodgates for some enthusiastic young moviegoers to discover film’s roots. Those are all wonderful perks of this story. And yet again, Greg Gaines feels so relatable it’s almost scary at times. He’s so insecure on so many levels, drifting in and out of the school corridors, awkward around dying girls, and awkward around girls in general. Most of this I pointed to already in my initial review.
However, it’s the work of director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon along with cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung that contribute an added layer of depth to this film. The gracefully spiraling camera is at times reminiscent of Ophuls ascending a staircase. There are perfectly symmetrical shots popping with colors that Wes Anderson would most certainly approve of. But like the great minimalists out there, the camera is still when necessary. In poignant moments when Greg and Rachael have real, heartfelt, even hurtful conversations, there’s no need for flashiness. It’s in these moments where those behind the camera prove their skill because we can see them having fun with their artistic vision, but we also notice the great deal of care they have for these characters.
It never feels flashy or superficial in these crucial moments. Any slick plot device or cinematic allusion falls away to get at the heart and soul of this film. It’s about coping with death and finding closure in that terrible event in life. Specifically for this one young man, but it is universally applicable to most every one of us. Especially when you’re young because as young, naive individuals, death can feel like such a foreign adversary. It’s so far removed from our sensibilities, and that’s what makes it so painfully unnatural when it strikes. In many ways, Greg is our surrogate. For all those who struggled to find themselves in high school, or college, or even life in general. And for all of those, who took risks on friendship in a world full of death and dying. Once more Me & Earl and the Dying Girl proved its worth, not by being a perfect film, but by being a heartfelt one.