Video on Demand — October 2015

Video pick of the month

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Death — or, more specifically, one’s early encounter with its possibility, is the subject of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, based on the celebrated book of the same name by Jesse Andrews (and adapted for the screen by him as well). It’s the story of high schooler Greg (Thomas Mann), whose calculated mode of self-protection is to keep emotions at bay and live in the spaces between cliques, becoming low-key pals with all, while never claiming an identity that could make him the object of another’s aggression.

Greg’s other survival strategy is the movies — and not whatever’s playing at the local Pittsburgh multiplex, but the latest reissue from Criterion. He and his pal Earl (RJ Cyler) imbibe filmmaking wisdom from Werner Herzog (via Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams) and, with their iPhones, make spoof-y shorts of arthouse classics: Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom becomes Pooping Tom, and Truffaut’s first-film inspiration for filmmakers everywhere becomes The 400 Bros. When a classmate he barely registers, Rachel (Olivia Cooke), is diagnosed with leukemia, Greg is given emotional homework by his mom (Connie Britton) — to be her friend. It’s to the credit of all involved that this scenario is registered as deeply cringeworthy to both of these resolutely unsentimental kids as it is by you right now. Shot by Chung-hoon Chung, whose credits include Oldboy and other films by Park Chan-wook, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl bristles with wide-screen invention, including unexpected pans and tilts and warped frames. It has the un-self-conscious brio of a first-time filmmaker, someone unafraid of being bold and, most importantly, being emotional. (Scott Macaulay)

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