When you first look at the title of this review and you see the word “joy”, how does that make you feel? I’m sure some of you are downright confused because how exactly can a film that involves a girl who is dying actually be something that would elicit joy? The joy that I am referring to is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is one the very few movies that I have ever seen that has dealt with the terrible disease of cancer and told it like it is. How many times have we gone to the movies and sat through a film in which in the end somehow that character we love has cancer but is showing no ill effects throughout the film? Me and Earl and the Dying Girl shows just the profound effect a cancer diagnosis can have, not only on the person’s health, but on the interpersonal relationships that person has in his/her everyday lives.
This movie tells the story of Greg (Thomas Mann), who’s mom forces him to interact with a girl named Rachel (Olivia Cooke) who was just diagnosed with Leukemia. Earl (R.J. Cuyler) who’s Greg’s co-worker (his best friend but Greg has commitment issues) lets it slip when they are hanging out that he and Greg love to shoot horrible remakes of even worse movies. They start a bond over these films that provide a much-needed distraction as Rachel heads down a very tough road of Chemotherapy. Let me be clear about this -Me and Earl and the Dying Girl doesn’t hold anything back but even through the horrors that Rachel endures (loss of hair, getting weaker by the day, and barf buckets) we still feel the warmth, compassion, and even humor even during Rachel’s darkest times.
Me and Earl and The Dying Girl won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year and I can see why. It is simply one of the very best movies I have seen so far in 2015 and right now would be in my personal top 3. The brilliance of this movie doesn’t come from what was necessarily said but was n’t. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s use of silence and calling upon the actors to convey parts of the movie using facial expression really created an authentic moment for everyone in theater. We all felt like we were right there with Rachel as she painfully went down this journey (both on a personal and interpersonal level). I was sitting in the theater with thoughts of all the people I knew who have bravely battled cancer-my mom,my father in-law,my grandmother, and my good friend Tara at work. Through brilliant acting and tremendous cinematography, the movie shows us that when the people closest to us are facing the most dire of diagnoses, the prudent thing to do is to just be you (even if that you is weird from time to time).
Joy can be found in a movie whose title includes the Dying Girl.