So this year I’m doing a “reading challenge” which consists of basically just 40 categories of novels and you have to read them all in the span of 2016. One of those categories was “A YA bestseller,” so I chose Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. I went in not expecting too much because I’m apparently one of those people who judges books by their cover and I figured since it was a young adult novel, it was probably an immature, poorly written story. But I didn’t really find it that way. I mean, it was definitely a novel geared towards young adults or even teenagers. But on the other hand, I thought it was very well written. It was written by a 30-year-old man, so it actually does say something good about the novel that it really felt like it was written by a(n extremely awkward) 17-year-old guy named Greg Gaines.
Anyway, this review is not of the novel… it’s of the film directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. To be 100% honest with you, my faithful reader(s) (but probably singular), I found the film to be better than the novel.
The story follows Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), a high school senior at Schenley High School, who does everything he can not to befriend anyone in any clique and simultaneously make the acquaintance of everyone in every clique at school. Sound complicated? Good, because it is. He and his good friend/coworker, Earl Jackson (RJ Cyler) spend their time making parody films that aren’t very good to anyone except Greg’s parents. His mother comes into his room one day and informs him that his “friend” (read: they haven’t spoken since kindergarten) Rachel Kushner (Olivia Cooke) has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and then subsequently forces him to spend time with her. So basically the film is Greg and Earl spending time with a girl dying of leukemia as we learn about the chronicles of their films and they get to know Rachel, whose light is quickly fading.
The acting was really good (I wasn’t expecting it to be). The story is mostly intriguing even though it focuses on the least interesting of the three characters. Despite its flaws, it starts out as two people forced to spend their time together and by the end, turns into something much more profound. The camera work is fantastic and is really what made the film for me.
I mean, the characters could have been more fleshed out but the writing was good, the dialogue was witty and there was an honesty in the narration. It is no The Fault in Our Stars, but maybe that’s a good thing. It’s less melodrama and cigarette metaphors and more honesty and vulnerable than anyone probably expected of it.
All in all, it’s definitely worth a watch.