Not Just a Cancer Story

By Diego Voss (Own work)

The endearing indie film comes to DVD and Blu-Ray

Emerging from the recent popularity of teen-cancer romance films, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl captures both heartfelt humor and bittersweet tears in an endearing coming-of-age story that manages to stand above all the rest.
Based on Jesse Andrew's 2012 debut novel of the same name, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl became a nationwide hit after its release in theaters on July 12, 2015. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, the film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and was met with an incredible reaction, taking home both the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, and the Audience Award for U.S. Drama- a rare feat.
As evinced by the film’s title, the movie centers on three, ordinary teenagers in modern Pittsburgh. Relative Hollywood newcomer, Thomas Mann, is perfectly cast as Greg Gaines- an average, self-centered teenager with a sense of self-deprecating humor. Gaines is content to meander through high school unnoticed with his best friend, Earl, the second namesake of the title, played by RJ Cyler. The two spend most of their time creating parodies of classic films- a few titles being “A Sockwork Orange” and "2:48 PM Cowboy." However, their mundane routine is interrupted when a classmate of theirs, Rachel Kushner, played by Olivia Cooke, is diagnosed with Stage IV leukemia and Gaines is encouraged to befriend her.
But this is not some sugary-sweet, sappy teenage romance- the relationship between Mann and Cooke is purely platonic, a refreshing friendship in the midst of cliche love stories.
"I liked the fact that romance wasn’t the driving force of the movie, it was something deeper and more complex than that. It sort of lives in all these grey areas," Mann said.
Even more, the three teenagers all talk and behave like actual teens- their dialogue is simple and relatable, not obscured by unrealistically perfect, quotable one-liners. Me and Earl is meant to be an accurate portrayal of real human beings and how they deal with life and loss. The characters' flaws and mistakes make them relatable, so that the audience is able to connect with their honesty.
This rawness and realness only emphasizes the film's already charming quality, allowing it to maintain a level of witty humor and heartfelt moments without ever becoming melodramatic. Despite the heavy subject, the movie's inherent lightheartedness keeps it from crossing over into tragedy. The quaintness that comes with being a smaller production only heightened the film's authentic and genuine charm- for instance, Andrew's actual childhood home is used as the set for Greg's house.
Despite being filmed in only 25 days, Me and Earl is beautifully shot, with dynamic camerawork that defines the movie's style. Maneuvers like wide angle perspectives and big panning movements are artfully used to express elements of the movie that were simply unable to be described with just words, such as the many subtleties within the movie's characters.
Me and Earl proves that it is not just a "cancer" movie, it's also about true friendship, artistic expression and loss. Gomez-Rejon set out to explore that journey and the many range of emotions that accompany it, seizing the opportunity to create a piece about coping and processing.
"It’s about discovery. One of the best things someone said is that after they saw the movie they wanted to go out and make something," Gomez-Rejon said.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes to DVD and Blu-Ray on October 6th. The release of these film packages includes deleted scenes, commentary from the director and cast, and a photo gallery. A behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as a few of the 21 movie parodies created in accompaniment with the film, are exclusive to Blu-Ray.

To read the full Q&A with the cast and director of Me and Earl, click here.

-Alyson Orescanin, Editor-in-Chief

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