I have never gone to a film festival. The closest I can get to the experience is reading the coverage of the event. Earlier this year, it seemed the clear winner of the Sundance festival was one about a girl with leukemia and two friends who spent their time making cheap knockoffs of classic movies. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to see it. Of course, I was going to have to wait.
The part where I actually watch Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
There is vibrant film making at work here. The director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, is clearly meant for great and successful things, although I fear that statement might imply that he has not yet accomplished any of those. And reader, with this film, he has.
The part where I react to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
I usually know how to respond to most films. As the credits roll, I have a good idea of what I feel like at the moment, and what worked and did not for me. I know I am a very emotional viewer, and that emotion will usually trump the objective side of me. Sometimes, I have to force myself to be ruthless and decide a film which was lovely was not actually something I liked. The same applies for the other way around.
On a few occasions, however, I am at a loss.
It is not that I did not like the picture, but that it had such an effect on me that I have to give myself some time to think about it and make a reasonable case for it, instead of just going “Yes, this!!”.
This is one of those rare occasions.
The part where I tell you of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
I had been led on to believe that this was a wittier version of The Fault in Our Stars, but it is not. I kept expecting Rachel (Olivia Cooke) and Greg (Thomas Mann) to declare undying love for each other, but the moment never comes. It does not even cross the characters minds.
What does develop is friendship. Pure and unadulterated friendship, the one which is so rare to find in movies nowadays, because sex and love get in the way of it. Not that there is no room for love here. But it exists as something different. There is the love Earl (RJ Cyler) has for Greg. The one his parents have for him as well, and the one that grows between him and Rachel.
The audience does not need to see a boy and a girl kissing to feel for them.
Watching them tell lame jokes in a room together is good enough.
This is a rare and beautiful picture.
At the end of The Fault of the Stars, as Shailene Woodley stares into the camera, teary eyed, and says “Okay”, I cried. The position the movie has left her in approaches a cosmic joke, and the only appropriate response is tears. Still, it did not stop being drama for drama’s sake.
At the end of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I cried not because I was sad at the place the characters had ended up, but because the journey had been damned gorgeous. And real. This was not drama, but actual life lessons, maturity and life itself.
This movie inhabits a plane not many dare or can enter: making us feel alive by reaching out and touching our very souls.