Loner Greg (Thomas Mann) has spent years carefully curating an invisible high school lifestyle for himself, avoiding friendships and spending all of his free time making silly spoof movies with his lifelong co-worker Earl (RJ Cyler). That’s right - Greg’s reluctance to develop meaningful relationships means his only meaningful relationship is strictly business. All this changes though when Greg’s neighbor Rachel (Olivia Cooke) is diagnosed with leukemia and his well meaning mum forces them to hang out. Intrigued by Greg and Earl’s bizarre back catalogue of films (with titles like Eyes Wide Butt, Senior Citizen Cane and My Dinner With Andre The Giant, who wouldn’t be?), it’s not long before Greg is asked to make a new film all about Rachel, a task that proves increasingly difficult as the pair’s relationship deepens and Rachel’s illness takes hold.
There’s a definite skill to keeping the optimism flowing throughout a film that could easily collapse into a wobbly lipped tissue fest at any moment. The key seems to be having an expert supporting cast and pin sharp script that keeps things bubbling on the right side of happy-sad. For starters, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s leading trio are insanely watchable. Thomas Mann’s quirky oddball Greg is instantly likeable, RJ Cyler is effortlessly funny as his laid-back buddy Earl and Olivia Cooke delivers a quietly powerful performance as Rachel that pulls everything together. Beyond that, Rejon packs his movie with a great extended cast, using them all to cushion the film’s emotional blows. Nick Offerman brings the laughs as Greg’s constantly robed stay-at-home dad, Molly Shannon finds humor in tragedy as Rachel’s struggling mum and Jon Bernthal is a welcome addition as Greg and Earl’s history tutor and high-school confidant.
However perhaps what makes Me and Earl and the Dying Girl the heartwarming cancer film to see (if that’s what you’re in the mood for), is Jesse Andrews script which he adapted from his own novel. It’s consistently funny and smart and when combined with director Rejon’s fresh style and handmade approach (sort of like Wes Anderson meets Michel Gondry), it makes for a happy-sad film that’s not only uplifting and comforting but definitely worth re-watching.