Winner of the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, this indie coming-of-age dramedy is all about Greg (Mann), a teenage boy whose mother makes him spend time with cancer-stricken classmate Rachel (Cooke).
Unlike the recent The Fault In Our Stars, which featured a romantic relationship between two teenagers with cancer, and worked hard to make the audience sob, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl eschews romance for laughs.
Cynical narrator Greg is a gawky, ordinary teenager surviving high school by being invisible; getting on with all the cliques while belonging to none. He calls best mate Earl (Cyler) his "co-worker" and they spend their free time making intentionally bad parodies of classic movies such as "A Sockwork Orange" and "Senior Citizen Kane", which will keep film fans amused.
First-time feature director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon clearly doesn't want to debut with a conventional film. He uses stop-motion animation and illustration, and isn't afraid to play with frame size, occasionally tipping the camera on its side. Which gives Me and Earl an offbeat aesthetic, somewhere between a Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry film.
It suits a sharp and clever script by Jesse Andrews, who wrote the 2012 young adult book of the same name.
Knowing what to say and how to act towards someone with cancer is tough, and Greg handles it with the awkwardness, honesty and humour you expect from a teenager. Mann and Cooke work beautifully together and their growing friendship is the heart of the story, even if narrator Greg tries too hard to make this story all about him - he is a teenage boy after all.
Although a touch too hip at times, and twee at others, Me and Earl is a sharply observed teenage drama and a real delight.
Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, R.J. Cyler
M (Offensive Language)
Quirky teen drama filled with genuine heart.