Me & Earl and the Dying Girl: Depth and Dying (2015)

meandearl1What 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.

meandearl2It 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.

4.5/5 Stars

Me & Earl & the Dying Girl (2015)

Me_&_Earl_&_the_Dying_Girl_(film)_POSTERI can say unflinchingly, without a single waver in my voice, that this is the best new release I’ve seen this year. Truth be told, I have not seen a whole lot of new films this year, but even if I had, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl would be the best by far.

The title in itself exudes a quirkiness that continues in a steady stream throughout the film. The same quirks can be found in our main protagonist, the self-proclaimed awkward, pale, rodent-faced high school senior Greg (Thomas Mann). He’s gone through high school with the mission of ingratiating himself to all and befriending no one. At this point in his high school career, the closest thing he has to a friend is Earl, who he simply considers his “co-worker,” since they develop homage short films together (ie. A Box of ‘Lips Wow). That’s another thing. Greg is obsessed with film: He eats up anything from Werner Herzog or The Archers thanks to the influence of his father (Nick Offerman). His other “friend” is the chill history teacher Mr. McCarty with an office that is the lunchtime oasis for Greg. But that’s about it.

That is until his doting mother (Connie Britton) forces him to go visit a girl who has been diagnosed with Leukemia. It’s a very forced scenario and both Greg and Rachel know it right from the get go. They haven’t even hardly talked since kindergarten. But, despite that, the two of them hit it off and Greg begins this doomed relationship with this dying girl.

The next 209 odd days or so Greg navigates this friendship and all that goes with it, while also developing a film for Rachel on the urging of the classmate that he is infatuated with. But do not get me wrong, this film does not fall into some contrived love triangle or sordid high school drama. It has a far broader more mature scope than that.

Yes, this is a high school teen film. Yes, it is a coming-of-age story, but it boasts so much more. It’s a film about films, a film about friendship, a film about regret, and most importantly a film about what it means to be alive. And yet, all the while, it tries to sidestep the normal tropes we expect.

Greg and Rachel have two very different perspectives. Two very different lots in life, but somewhere in between all of that, amidst the fear, laughter, and even anger, they find some special connections.

There is so much to appreciate about the film and for me, it starts with the character of Greg, because in some ways he was analogous to me in high school. I too was a nomad who traveled from group to group never being fully known. I found a passion for film and slowly began to learn about Kurosawa and Bergman among others. It was not until senior year where I finally began to feel comfortable in my own shoes and that was the perfect time for a new adventure in college. Thus, I resonate with Greg, because although he is certainly not me, he’s the most relevant high school character I have seen in a long while.

As for Connie Britton and Nick Offerman, both of them have some nice scenes that add a lot to this story. One as the over-involved mom who generally cares and the other as a free spirit of a dad who likes exotic food, bohemian garb, and art-house, not to mention the family feline Cat Stevens.

With great films, it is always difficult to pin them down, and the same can be said for this one. It has an awareness of film history that is unequivocally refreshing and unheard of for a genre potentially aimed at teenagers during the summer months. It has its own heartfelt crescendo that in some respects reminded me of Cinema Paradiso. In all other facets, it works beautifully as a teen dramedy and it does a better job in that niche than most. Miraculously, it couples humor and quirks with touching notes that are relevant to the here and now, while somehow still being universal. Also, do not get me started on the music, which is absolutely fantastic.

I look forward to seeing it again sometime soon!

4.5/5 Stars