When I first heard the premise for this film I almost passed on it: A high schooler befriends a girl with cancer. But don’t be mislead, it ain’t another YA effort taking money from swooned teens. This is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time, and it comes to no surprise to me that, after winning Sundance this year, it was acquired by Fox Searchlight for $12 million dollars, becoming the biggest buy in the festival’s history. Prepare not to be swooned, but wrecked.
In his film directorial debut, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon lets us peek through an open gap into his sensibilities, with an oozing devotion for cinema that feels intimate and profound. Quirky nostalgic yet mesmerizing visuals frame perfectly a story about love, friendship and the agonies and struggles of self acceptance, without never feeling cheap or manipulative. The emotional notes are delivered in such a subtle and sincere way, that whenever the “real” punches arrive you are in too deep to dive and avoid the knock out. It will make you cry. But not because of the reasons or at the moments you expect, and I absolutely love it for it.
The acting is just brilliant, probably one of the big reasons why this feature works so well. Thomas Mann as Greg is a joy to watch, with unpretentious charm he proves to have a wider range than most actors double his age. RJ Cyler‘s Earl can’t be a coolest sidekick, with an scene stealer charisma I want to see more of in the future. Olivia Cooke as Rachel is too smart and talented to let us pity for her character’s condition, instead she is delightfully warm, funny and charming with an equally powerful range of emotions in her performance. The rest of the cast is wonderful as well, specially Molly Shannon’s funny and fantastic delivery of Rachel’s mom.
Powerful, resonant, and groundbreaking, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is a film that will charm you and stick with you in the best of ways. It avoids the conventions and cliches of its genre to become a fresh, funny and effectively emotional feature. Moments that would be tearjerkers somewhere else serve as a celebration of the power and true meaning of art, yet there are scenes when a single discovered object becomes a prism of emotions for both the performers and the audience. Not unlike those teens falling for the heartthrob of the moment in other YA movies, this one swept me off my feet.
If you want to follow me on Twitter I’m @shemoviegeek