Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (3 stars)

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

credit: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Fresh-faced and twee Sundance hit, from director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

If Wes Anderson met John Hughes and they made a weepy, this would be it. A heady Sundance hit, which premiered to a standing ovation and picked up two prizes, this unpredictable / predictable dramedy sees a friendship blossom in the shadow of imminent death.

Greg (Thomas Mann) is a pale, lanky 17-year-old trying to coast through his suburban Pittsburgh high school by hanging with – but not belonging to – every clique there is. Breezing past his neighbour and former childhood pal Rachel (Olivia Cooke), as she refers to some tests, his quip of, 'Ugh, tests…been there,' rebounds badly; her tests were for cancer and she’s failing. Sent by his anxious, sort-of-boozy mom (an excellent Connie Britton) to befriend Rachel in her final days, Greg’s carefully built defences start to crumble as a reluctant friendship develops.

The pair are joined by the, similarly lanky, African-American teen Earl (confident, mostly silent newcomer RJ Cyler), who's less Greg’s friend and more his co-worker. Greg and Earl have been making shoddy homages to famous films for years. With titles such as 'Rosemary Baby Carrots', 'A Sockwork Orange', 'MonoRash' and 'The 400 Bros' they are, understandably, unshowable, yet they come to play a pivotal role in Rachel’s fight for life.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not perfect. It’s twee, manipulative and a little too aware of its own sub-genre: films about terminally ill youths. The second feature by director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (following promising horror remake The Town That Dreaded Sundown) has been adapted by Jesse Andrews from his own YA novel; his script originally made the 2012 Black List of best unsold screenplays, and the film was eventually purchased by Fox Searchlight for $12 million, a Sundance sales record. Although it's quite a bit more than a fresh-faced landmark, you’ll either love it or want to punch it.

General release from Fri 4 Sep.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US
  • 1h 44min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
  • Cast: Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Jon Bernthal
  • UK release: 11 September 2015

Greg (Mann) is a Pittsburgh teenager who makes terrible films with his friend Earl (Cyler); then he finds out that his former childhood pal Rachel (Cooke) has terminal cancer. Twee, manipulative and self-conscious, it's as if Wes Anderson and John Hughes collaborated on a weepy, and you'll either love it or want to punch…