"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" is a smart film about thoughtful teenage characters who have far more on their minds than who they are taking to prom (although that's also on some of their minds, too). A sensation at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival—it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award—the picture inadvertently invites comparison to 2014's similar "The Fault in Our Stars," but is different enough in style and sensibility to stand on its own without coming off as a familiar redux. Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (2014's "The Town That Dreaded Sundown") and screenwriter Jesse Andrews (adapting his own 2012 novel) bring welcome scope and culture to a slyly humored drama about an unlikely friendship between two high school seniors moving toward very different fates as they approach graduation. There are hints of undisputable inspiration in Gomez-Rejon's approach—Wes Anderson's "Rushmore" and Alexander Payne's "Election" come immediately to mind while watching—but the filmmaker uses them merely as a jumping-off point for his own uniquely perceptive viewpoint.
Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) is a die-hard cinephile and aspiring director whose 42 home-made films (most of them affectionate movie spoofs) adorn his family's living-room shelves. At his Pittsburgh high school, his goal is to blend in rather than be noticed. At lunch, he typically heads to the office of history teacher Mr. McCarthy (Jon Bernthal) to watch classic cinema alongside his sort-of friend/kind-of co-worker Earl Jackson (RJ Cyler). When Greg's mom (Connie Britton) learns that his classmate, Rachel Kushner (Olivia Cooke), has been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, she urges him to reach out to her. Greg barely knows Rachel, and when he drops by her house she, in turn, makes it clear that she is not interested in being his charity case. Nevertheless, the more they hang out, the more they bond with each other. This isn't like the movies, though, Greg informs us, and there will be no passionate declarations of love or riding off into the sunset. Rachel doesn't die, either, he adds reassuringly, but as Rachel grows sicker and Greg neglects his schoolwork to secretly complete an original film dedicated to her, hope for their respective futures starts to gradually dim.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review