AFI Movie Club: ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
A truly original and offbeat coming-of-age tale, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL chronicles the journey of a self-deprecating and cinema-obsessed teen (Thomas Mann) who unexpectedly befriends a cancer-stricken classmate (Olivia Cooke) as he tries to survive the social minefield that is high school. The director of this breakout Sundance hit is AFI alum Alfonso Gómez-Rejón (AFI Class of 1995).
Watch director and AFI alum Alfonso Gómez-Rejón go “Behind the Scene” on ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRLL:
Trivia about ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
DID YOU KNOW? ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is based on the debut novel of Jesse Andrews, who would later adapt it for the screen. As young man, Andrews also made films with friends that were homages to comic filmmakers, similar to the character of Greg.
DID YOU KNOW? To prepare for the role of Greg, actor Thomas Mann picked up scores of DVDs from the Criterion Collection and gave himself an unofficial education in the history of cinema. Mann revealed, “I wanted to watch all of the movies that Greg has watched. I didn’t want to be parodying movies I’d never seen.”
DID YOU KNOW? Actress Olivia Cooke and director Alfonso Gómez-Rejón did research at the pediatric wing at the UCLA medical center and at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to make sure they accurately depicted Rachel’s experience with leukemia. Gómez-Rejón said, “we wanted all the details to be clear and specific so that we didn’t fall into some kind of cliché accidentally, and Olivia and I had a chart that broke down her character before her first chemotherapy treatment and the five that followed and where she was after.”
DID YOU KNOW? RJ Cyler, who plays the main character’s pensive best friend Earl, made his feature film debut in ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. After receiving accolades for his performance, the once homeless Jacksonville native landed a recurring role on HBO’s VICE PRINCIPALS and a starring part on Showtime’s I’M DYING UP HERE.
DID YOU KNOW? Alfonso Gómez-Rejón’s mentor is Martin Scorsese, and there are a number of references to legendary filmmaker throughout ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. The film features a MEAN STREETS poster on Greg’s wall, a clip of TAXI DRIVER and even Scorsese’s voice – audible via commentary track to the Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger movie, THE TALES OF HOFFMAN.
DID YOU KNOW? Cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon is predominantly known for his collaborations with Chan-wook Park, including OLD BOY, STOKER and THE HANDMAIDEN. One of the reasons he wanted to work on ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is that he loves comedic coming-of-age stories, but no one had ever previously associated him with those types of films.
DID YOU KNOW? Director Alfonso Gómez-Rejón was compelled to make ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL following the death of his father, Julio Cesar Gomez Rejon, M.D., who passed away in 2010. Alfonso said, “it was only after the film screened with my dad’s dedication at Sundance that it forced me to talk about it. When I had to start talking about my dad, that became the unexpected second act of this journey. In celebrating him it becomes less about loss and more about the great love.”
DID YOU KNOW? The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Audience award (Dramatic) and the Grand Jury Prize (Dramatic).
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The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions
-How did the filmmakers balance the fine line between comedy and tragedy?
-Why do you think Rachel takes a liking to Greg? How is he different from the other people in her orbit?
-Why does Greg fear getting too attached to people, including Rachel and his “co-worker” Earl?
-Which of Greg and Earl’s parodies of classic films is your favorite? How did the director incorporate his own love of cinema throughout the film?
-How did the film avoid a clichéd representation of Rachel’s struggle with leukemia? What did Olivia Cooke bring to the role to make Rachel a fully formed character?
-How does Greg and Rachel’s friendship evolve over the course of the film? Why do you think the filmmakers kept the friendship platonic instead of romantic? Why do you think they made this creative choice?
-What is Greg’s teacher Mr. McCarthy’s role throughout the film? What’s the significance of him saying, “even after somebody dies, you can still keep learning about them. You know, their life. It can keep unfolding itself to you just as long as you pay attention to it”? Do you believe this?
-In the face of loss and grief, how are memories of a person who has passed both a comfort and a burden?
-How does Rachel impact the course of Greg’s life ranging from his college prospects to his ability to connect and have compassion for others?
-How would you rate ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL?
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