Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – when cinephiles meet a cancer patient

Story of teens, one with leukaemia avoids stereotypes and over-the-top emotions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 November, 2015, 10:13am

This delicate movie elevates itself from the usual run-of-the-mill schooldays saga with a script that is one part funny, one part tragic and all parts thoroughly human. The story of a teenage boy trying to make the last days of a leukaemia victim bearable is sad without being sentimental or maudlin – quite a feat in a genre which usually settles for overstated emotions.

Adapted by Jesse Andrews from his novel, this refreshingly multilayered movie follows nervous teenager Greg (Thomas Mann)  as he starts to visit young leukaemia victim Rachel (Olivia Cooke)  at the insistence of his mother. A gentle friendship develops, and his brash, clumsy communication style gradually adds some light to her life.

The copious cheeky references to classic art-house movies here are a treat for film buffs. Greg makes humorous shorts that lampoon classic art-house movies – one’s called A Sockwork Orange, for instance – with his friend Earl (R.J. Cyler). The film story and the cancer story then gradually converge, and additional characters like a tattooed history teacher and the school’s hot girl are carefully stirred into the mix.

The film’s beauty arises from the way that doom and joy, laughter and sadness, and even poverty and wealth are effortlessly compressed together. Stereotypes are carefully avoided, and the dying Rachel, superbly acted by Cooke in a minimalist fashion, is even given moments of humour.

The plot unravels a little near the end, but the subtle performances hold everything together. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a many-sided film which reminds of real life: sad, happy, the whole works.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl opens on November 12