Cyclone Rewind: ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’

Dalton Gackle

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a summer film dealing with the trials of life and death, set to release June 12.

I connected to the lead character, Greg, from the get-go. The film opens with him describing his keys to surviving high school. His main skill was to be acquainted with every group and clique and not have any enemies.

My goal in high school was to not have any enemies. It worked out, but it led to Greg’s second skill, maintaining invisibility. For me, being invisible was lonely. Just about everyone in the school knew me and respected me but I was not actual friends with any of them.

Greg eventually has to choose a group when his mom forces him to hang out with a girl he knew from kindergarten, Rachel, who was just diagnosed with leukemia.

The film becomes an emotional journey for Greg to deal with his new dying friend and her eventual passing. The movie provides a message for those who are dealing with loss.

“It wasn’t about trying to make a high school movie. I just really identified with Greg and his journey. It became a very therapeutic process for me,” said director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who lost his father and wanted to remember him properly.

The film helps people to be at peace with the death of someone close.

“It’s about letting go and not having regret. That feeling of regret that sometimes happens after you lose someone, those things you should have said,” Gomez-Rejon said.

The emotions and vibe of the film reminded me of “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Spectacular Now” and “The Graudate.” They all have an outsider feel to them.

All of these films also found a good balance with comedy and drama.

“I had to make sure it was all well balanced and calibrated so that every humor came over in place and the drama didn’t feel over the top either,” Gomez-Rejon said.

I also connected with the homage to classic films within the movie. I am a huge movie buff, and enjoyed the friendship between Greg and Earl that was based on spoofing classics in their spare time.

After Rachel is diagnosed, they decide to make a movie for her.

“I am a cinephile,” Gomez-Rejon said. “We’re celebrating movies on some level, it needs to be a visual movie, a visual experience.”

The film was very well shot. It did create a visual experience. The use of wide shots and keen angles was aesthetically pleasing. Gomez-Rejon said the choice to use wide angles was to create separation and awkward space. They were also used to emphasize the setting, whether it be at the high school or a neighborhood in Pittsburg.

In one of the more emotional scenes, the wide angle creates a perfect disparity between foreground and background to emphasize the character’s separation.

In another, a steady cam is used to create a different sense, using the natural shakiness of a human holding a camera.

“We put a simple approach to it. Steady cam gave it almost an underwater effect like a memory because it is a memory,” Gomez-Rejon said.

The acting was also fantastic for such a young main cast. The actor playing Earl, RJ Cyler, has his debut role in the film.

Thomas Mann plays Greg, the main character, and does a fine job of being the lonely teenager on the cusp of college and manhood.

RJ Cyler plays Earl, Greg’s only friend, though Greg refers to Earl as his coworker. He does an incredible job in his first role, portraying the more mature and sincere friend.

Olivia Cooke plays Rachel, the dying girl. She is amazing in her emotional presentation of a girl coming to terms with dying.

The message the film puts across is beautiful. You are always able to keep learning about someone after they are gone. They are never truly dead.

“Greg’s in her room discovering a side of her that she kept private and she is now revealing herself to him,” Gomez-Rejon said. “He gets her on a whole new level. She was an artist like he was.”