Even people who have 5,000 friends on Facebook can feel like they have none. This sad, scary idea is what Me and Earl and the Dying Girl examines with honesty, heart and a lot of humour.
The idea that social media can make us feel more isolated and lonely isn’t new. Various studies have looked into it over the years, and many continue to. Supposedly, not interacting with people face-to-face is something our brains aren’t equipped to handle – Internet dating is particularly counter-productive, as we can’t release all those sexy hormones correctly.
Satirist Charlie Brooker once referred to Twitter the world’s largest video game – the idea being that we’re all playing a game where we try to get as many favourites and retweets as possible. This quest to present our most broadly appealing selves is what the film’s protagonist does every day at high school.
Greg, an extremely neurotic but secretly quirky young man, tries to maintain friendships with every clique at school without belonging to any of them – censoring everything he says and does in order to get the most “likes” possible. That is, of course, until he meets Rachel.
As the title suggests, Rachel is a girl dying of leukaemia. But whilst you’ve seen boy meets girl too many times before, and whilst you’ve seen boy meets sick girl before, you won’t have seen a more heartbreaking portrayal of two teenagers rendered unable to be intimate by a world in which digital interactions are more practised than real ones.
Jesse Andrews’ script, based on his debut novel, hilariously but poignantly points out how dangerously neurotic teens are becoming. Somewhere between adverts that tell us we’re too ugly, online bullying or that mindfuck struggle between 15 minutes of YouTube fame and not making waves, it’s easy to argue that teenagers have never been assaulted by more pressures capable of making them feel inadequate.
Sadly evidence of the above can be found on Andrews’ twitter page, where on more than one occasion he’s replied to someone that they need to love themselves more.
Essentially, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a mature version of this year’s Pixar film Inside Out. It teaches us that life can be very unfair and that sadness is natural, even helpful. It also teaches us that the most rewarding, powerful relationships in our lives can appear from nowhere – that we might not see someone right in front of us if we’re staring at our phones.
In a world where we can all-too-easily beat ourselves up in front of a screen over what message to send, or what to say to stay relevant, it’s important to remember to look up and live.
Image Credit – From Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Fox Searchlight Pictures