Teen drama brims with life

Rutherglen Reformer - - THE TICKET -

Di­rec­tor Al­fonso Gomez-Re­jon de­parts from his re­cent hor­ror projects (The Town That Dreaded Sun­down, Amer­i­can Hor­ror Story) to helm the big screen adap­ta­tion of Jesse An­drews’ pop­u­lar novel.

An­drews him­self adapted the screen­play and the story re­mains the same; fol­low­ing the es­capades of high school best bud­dies Greg (Thomas Mann) and Earl (RJ Cyler) as they get to know Rachel (Olivia Cooke), a class­mate just di­ag­nosed with leukemia.

Don’t worry if the sub­ject mat­ter doesn’t ex­actly scream a bar­rel of laughs; Gomez-Re­jon’s charm­ing flick is a de­light from start to fin­ish, bet­ter­ing the sim­i­larly-themed – al­beit with adult char­ac­ters – 50/50 by a fair mar­gin.

The ‘dram­edy’ was a big hit at this year’s Sun­dance fes­ti­val – win­ning the Grand Jury prize – and it’s not hard to see why, with all fears of an over­dose of sen­ti­men­tal­ity, or jaw-drop­pingly cringe­wor­thy at­tempts to poke fun at ter­mi­nal ill­ness, bat­ted out of the park from the off.

Gomez-Re­jon and An­drews show their love of film through Greg and Earl’s ridicu­lously en­dear­ing home­made movies and that plot strand in it­self could’ve made for a su­perb teen ver­sion of Be Kind Rewind.

But then Cooke comes along and changes ev­ery­thing with a bond form­ing be­tween her stricken stu­dent and Greg.

The Bates Mo­tel and Ouija star is a rev­e­la­tion as the ter­mi­nally ill pupil who makes light of her dis­ease and re­fuses to let it slow her down as she car­ries on with her stud­ies.

Mann also hits a ca­reer zenith and the pair share stu­pen­dously sweet mo­ments to­gether, although re­fresh­ingly there’s no eyelash flut­ter­ing and dec­la­ra­tions of love as the duo’s re­la­tion­ship re­mains purely pla­tonic.

Cyler is a hugely like­able pres­ence too in only his sec­ond screen credit of any kind and Con­nie Brit­ton (Greg’s Mom) and Molly Shan­non (Denise) en­sure it’s not just the kids who shine.

Jon Bern­thal (Mr McCarthy) is also a hoot in a small but im­por­tant role that’s a world away from his turn as Shane in tele­vi­sion hit The Walk­ing Dead.

Gomez- Re­jon takes An­drews words and el­e­vates them from the page with cre­ative tri­umphs in­clud­ing talk­ing posters and a su­per sound­track com­piled by Brian Eno re­flects the bouncy, pos­i­tive mood per­fectly.

The in­evitable end­ing to Rachel’s story is han­dled beau­ti­fully and while there are sure to be a few tears here and there, it’s be­cause you gen­uinely care as op­posed to clever ma­nip­u­la­tion and des­per­ate tac­tics by the film­mak­ers.

A com­ing-of-age in­die tale with a dif­fer­ence, Me and Earl and the Dy­ing Girl goes off in sev­eral un­ex­pected di­rec­tions and fea­tures a young cast at the peak of their act­ing pow­ers.

Smart, sweet and far from soppy, it’s also a welcome de­par­ture from the pre­quels, se­quels, re­makes and comic book ad­ven­tures crowd­ing the mar­ket­place.

High school chums Mann and Cooke get ac­quainted

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