Greg and Earl have been friends for many years and enjoy making terrible movies together. When Greg discovers that a girl from school, Rachel, has been diagnosed with Leukemia, his mother forces him to befriend her. What starts as reluctance soon blossoms into a genuine friendship which soon also includes Earl. When Rachel’s condition deteriorates, keeping her bed-bound and depressed, Greg struggles to cope and takes his distress out on everyone around him but he soon learns how insignificant his own feelings are when Rachel’s illness puts her in hospital.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) – Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Running Length: 105 mins
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler
Based on the novel of the same name by Jesse Andrews, ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ follows Greg, whose fear of rejection makes him a self-inflicted loner and misfit. But when he’s given the chance of actual friendship, he embraces it fully and enjoys every moment he spends with his newfound friend, Rachel. What sets this movie apart from others from the same ‘sick lit’ genre (see ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ and ‘If I Stay’ for typical examples) is that there is no romance between the leads, they simply care deeply for one another as friends.
Sadly, ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ doesn’t quite cut it for the emotionally fulfilling story it promises to be due in part to the lack of chemistry between the two leads, Thomas Mann (playing Greg) and Olivia Cooke (playing Rachel). The pair are both monosyllabic and the lack of much-needed charisma makes the film seem flat and uninteresting. After an emotional scene between the two, Rachel is barely seen for a large portion of the movie, leading to her almost being forgotten when the patchwork plot returns to her plight, the climax of the movie doesn’t land as powerfully as it should.
While this could have been a different kind of teen drama, ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ just seems to be another teen cancer story that’s been churned out with the knowledge that fans of the genre will pay to see it. With other, better movies like this out there it is unlikely to become a favourite for many.
IS ‘ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
A teen boy is seen watching a computer screen which has a young woman dancing in lingerie. His parents walk into his room unannounced and he become embarrassed and annoyed that they have invaded his privacy.
There is a running joke throughout the movie that Greg was once caught masturbating with a pillow. At one point, a teen girl puts a pillow down on a cafeteria table saying that it is supposed to represent a baby to be looked after. Greg then makes an obscene hand gesture and jokingly tells the girl that he might masturbate over it.
The school history teacher is considered to be ‘cool’ by most of the students, he has a natural charm that the teenagers relate to and he is covered in tattoos. At one point, he tells Greg and Earl not to eat the soup that he is having for lunch and, after he leaves the room, the two immediately help themselves to a large portion. They then become high on an illegal drug which affects their personalities and there are frequent mentions of drug use, marijuana and being high. While this was clearly an accident, there is little to suggest that either character is upset by this happening and it appears to be simply something that all teenagers do and this situation wouldn’t faze them. This casual attitude towards drug use may be distasteful to a lot of parents.
One of the characters reminds a friend that at kindergarten, they called a boy ‘perverted’ for showing the other kids a birthmark on his bottom. The group then us the words ‘pervert’ and ‘perverted’ several times.
There are several references to casual drug use throughout the movie; a main character’s dad asks ‘did you know you could smoke a hornet?’ Another character’s mother is often seen drinking and being drunk. She encourages Greg and Earl to also have a drink even though they are underage.
A character gets dragged away from a fight they started, pushed onto a table and punched repeatedly. This isn’t graphic as it is shot from a distance and the camera pans away so all that is seen is a few punches being thrown and, as there are students in the way, none are shown to land. The next scene shows the characters involved with a few cuts and bruises but no serious injuries have been inflicted.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
While there is nothing inherently wrong with ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, its lack of cohesion and relatable characters lets it down and what could have been a well-rounded story of friendship turns out to be a mediocre example of a genre that is bursting with far superior offerings. Due to the frequent bad language and casual drug references, we feel that this movie is not appropriate for kids aged 11 an under.
- Violence: 1/5 (two male characters fight in the street but this isn’t overly violent and is quite short)
- Emotional Distress: 3/5 (a character dies off-screen and their loved ones mourn their loss. This isn’t overly upsetting but one character’s reaction could cause some sadness)
- Fear Factor: 2/5 (The deterioration of Rachel’s health may be distressing for some kids, she is shown wearing wigs, headscarves or with a bald head and is often upset due to feeling ‘ugly’)
- Sexual Content: 4/5 (In the first scene, there is a reference to the Russian punk band, Pussy Riot. An adult asks a teen boy if he will be ‘getting busy’ that night then says ‘I hope you get some’. In a voiceover, Greg says that with a female character, they could be ‘making out with the fury of a thousand suns’. A middle-aged woman flirts with two teenage boys but this does not become sexual)
- Bad Language: 4/5 (frequent and unavoidable moderate cursing and blasphemy. One strong word is used)
- Dialogue: 3/5 (frequent casual drug references and masturbation jokes)
- Some teens are seen smoking in a school bathroom.
- Other notes: Deals with themes of friendship, facing a serious illness and possible death at a young age, accepting what is ahead of you, people having different coping strategies and understanding that one’s own feelings are not always the most important.
Words by Laura Record