Film Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Directed by by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, this American comedy-drama screened at the Sydney Film Festival at the weekend. Here’s why it was our favourite movie from the entire programme: 

If you weren’t a fan of the likes of Juno, The Fault in Our Stars or Son of Rambow, then congratulations on somehow managing to live your life with neither a heart nor a sense of humour. It must be fun to be you. However, if you did like these movies, then here’s another one that you simply have to experience. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a comedy based around 17-year-old Greg and his friendship with Rachel, a girl from school who has been diagnosed with leukaemia. If it sounds manipulative and schmaltzy then, fear not, it really isn’t. Indeed, the film goes to great lengths to make it clear that this isn’t some kind of soppy, predictable love story. It even says so, repeatedly, in the voiceover. No, this is a yarn with a super sharp and witty script (a la Juno) about a kid who makes really bad home movies (like in Son of Rambow) and who becomes accidental friends with a terminally ill girl (similar to The Fault in Our Stars). The whole thing is beautifully crafted and the result is something well-observed, laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreakingly sad. 

It all starts when Greg – who manages to be part of every social group at his Pittsburgh high school without actually having any friends – is told by his overbearing mother to hang out with Rachel, the dying girl to which the title refers. Their forced friendship soon becomes genuine though, as they journey through her illness together. 

There are so many hilarious moments in this film. Seriously. The laugh-count is ludicrously high to the point where you miss jokes because you’re still laughing at the previous punchline. The cineliterate gags are so good (there are Werner Herzog references aplenty) and Thomas Mann is great is Greg, who uses humour to paper over his self-doubts. Olivia Cooke is superb as Rachel and performs her role utterly believably. Hats off as well to Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman, who is the weird Dad with the even weirder taste in cuisine.

I don’t want to give away spoilers so will not delve further into the plot here. Suffice to say, go and see this film at the earliest opportunity. As well as an abundance of humour, this film has real heart. It cares for its characters and its audience. You will laugh, you will cry and you will want to watch the whole thing again as soon as the credits role. It’s absolutely magnificent.

bobby townsend


Review by Bobby Townsend.