High school can be a tumultuous time for teens. There’s a constant battle to fit in, to excel, to overcome insecurities, and to survive the experience. That’s the premise of the film Me And Earl And the Dying Girl starring Thomas Mann as Greg, an uninspired senior who loves making not-so-good movies with his non-chalant best friend Earl (RJ Cyler).
Greg and Earl live an almost invisible existence at their high school where they bide time at lunch in their history teacher’s office watching quirky old movies, as well as footage they’ve filmed. Just when it seems their mundane teen life was on a steady course of dodging airborne food in the chaotic cafeteria, and for Greg, encountering his teen crush Madison (Katherine C. Hughes) with angst – it’s a normality the boys have settled into. Things begin to change when at the urging of his mother (Connie Britton), Greg starts to hang with fellow classmate Rachel (Olivia Cooke), who’s recently been diagnosed with leukemia. What starts out as a put upon burden becomes a purpose for Greg, which opens his eyes to the world around him and even tests the bond of his friendship with Earl.
“Me And Earl And the Dying Girl” is a different sort of coming of age film. There’s an unapologetic vulnerability to the characters. In Greg and Earl we see two friends, who live different types of lives yet they’ve cultivated a bond through the creation of their homemade movies. When Rachel and her illness are introduced into the dynamic, she is almost a mirror that the boys look into, seeing themselves and each other in a different light. Her purpose, as the dying girl, is also redefined. It’s a film with a message of discovery and boundaries, and coming out of one’s comfort zone. That’s what elevates this film from similar stories in the genre.