A Technical Analysis of 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl's' Ending
Helpful for Any Fellow Film Students
Throughout my analysis, I will be exploring the effect camera and sound have on the audience of the film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and how it generates both meaning and a reaction within the viewer. For my analysis, I will be using the penultimate scene, which runs for five minute and follows the protagonist’s transition into the new equilibrium. Since the micro elements are used here in order to have a sympathetic effect on the audience. In the scene, the two micro elements are used to emphasise the emotional atmosphere after the death of Rachel, the eponymous Dying Girl, and highlight the feelings of sorrow and mourning in the protagonist and shows how the protagonist can enter the new equilibrium.
The clip opens with a close-up shot of the protagonist Greg so that we as the viewer can see what he is feeling as he enters Rachel’s bedroom, the audience already has expectations that feelings of grief and sorrow will be present in the scene due to the prior events in the narrative reflecting the dramatic genre of the film. Diegetic sound of wind plays as he enters the room, a calming sound for the viewer. A long shot is utilised as Greg begins to walk into the bedroom accompanied with the non-diegetic sound of slow melodic piano notes playing in the score that emphasise the mood and tone of the clip; the emotions that the protagonist is undergoing and create an emotional atmosphere that relates with the audience, an atmosphere suitable for this reflective scene after the death of a pivotal character. The viewer enters Rachel’s bedroom accompanied by her narration of a letter that Greg is reading on her bed in a wide shot of her room, the only diegetic sound used in the scene which allows the viewer to focus on her narration, the tone of which is both sincere and upbeat.
This wide shot displays various decorations present in the room that show Rachel’s personality and the essence of her that is left, leading the audience to expect a dedication to her that brings Greg into a new equilibrium. A symbol is used in the non-diegetic score as we hear Rachel saying her farewells to Greg but fades as we see a postscript on the back of the card that we read along with the voice-over of Rachel (the only diegetic sound at the time to wholly focus on her) who narrates this small departing joke, lightening the tone of the clip to comfort the audience. The producers use a point-of-view shot as Greg looks down to the college handbook, seeing the arrows placed in the centre with him, seeing this from Greg’s perspective helps the viewer to access what he is feeling which creates empathy and sympathy for him. An extreme close-up of what the book contains is used and it is revealed to be a carving of him, Earl and her sat together on steps, emphasising the key theme of friendship which was present throughout the film. The camera then moves into a wide shot of Greg on the bed now sat up and in tears at what he has just found, this move happens instantly so we can see the protagonist’s reaction. The camera moves back to the extreme close-up of the intricate detail that Rachel has put into this for Greg with the non-diegetic score becoming gentler to highlight this touching sentiment Rachel has left for him. Greg’s hand gradually moves into the shot as he feels the pages in fascination. The camera moves with Greg’s eyes as we see with him the figures of the three main characters in the centre of the book. It then alternates back to a close-up of Greg who has drawn himself closer to the book out of wonder and fascination; we too as the viewer are moved by this sentiment as the close camera work propels us into the scene. This sequence is accompanied with a gentle non-diegetic sound that eases the audience into the scene that displays the theme of reflection present here.
The camera then moves into a wide shot of Greg on the edge of the bed as he places the book down next to him on the bed, with, soft acoustic tones played in the score to reflect the emotional mood of the scene. An over-the-shoulder shot is used of him looking down into her top drawer which is full of empty pill bottles, the change in shot makes the viewer feel that they are now with him and the sight of the bottles make us pity Rachel. As the top drawer is closed a book at the top of the next drawer moves into the frame and we alternate to a close-up of Greg crying before he opens the book. We see over Greg’s shoulder what she has carved into this book, cinéma-vérité is used to realistically reflect Greg’s movement as he is getting to see a new unexpected creative side to Rachel one that we haven’t seen as well which surprising us as well as him. The camera then, at a low angle displays Greg’s person so that we can view the poor state he is in out of grief. The camera shifts to his perspective as he sees something on the wall that has caught his eye; the blurred focus makes us as the audience intrigued too, the non-diegetic sound blending into the background in order to focus us on the mystery of what he has seen.
What he has seen is revealed, in a high angle shot, to be a small sketch of a squirrel on the tree wallpaper. The shot then alternates back to Greg’s blurred face that comes into focus in an extreme close-up, reflecting his tears beginning to stop, seeing Greg calming down lifts us and relieves us of some emotional tension that has been built up in the scene. The camera shifts to an over-the-shoulder shot of Greg tracing the squirrel across the wall and a wide shot shows how small this squirrel is in and shows how Greg takes comfort out of this small drawing as it reminds of her. The non-diegetic score’s pace increases as his movements quicken reflecting how he is moving on faster now. We track Greg’s fingers tracing this small squirrel’s journey across the wall and a close-up of him shows that he is calming more, which calms the tone of the scene down. The score’s intensity increases as additional acoustic is added that reflects the pace beginning to increase and indicating that he is starting to move on. Close-ups of other small squirrels on her shelves are used, showing a passion for them that she only made a small reference to in a previous scene, getting to know Rachel more comforts us as well as Greg and it is satisfying to the viewer that more about her can unfold even after her death. The pitch of the acoustic guitar in the non-diegetic score rises, which reflects how raw and authentic the scene is as we see more of what she has left behind.
The producers use a point-of-view shot of a small book with arrows drawn in the corners with Greg flicking through the pages seeing the small things that she did in her bedroom. More over-the-shoulder shots of Greg seeing more of her belongings are used as we see him explore her room more, uncovering more about her as he does. Another close-up point-of-view shot is used, of a book that contains a carving of a lone miniature polar bear, which refers to a joke that he made to her earlier on in the film that will remind the viewer, as well as Greg of the times that the pair shared over the course of their friendship. We view the book rotating as the camera is still so we can see the movement of the book in Greg’s hands. It then shifts to a wide shot of Greg closing the book and then an extreme close-up of him in tears at the memory. The camera is then placed over-the-shoulder of Greg at a high angle so that we can look down- with him- to Rachel’s various hats and wigs that she wore when she was undergoing treatment, as the acoustic in the score rises in volume and quickens, showing him moving along. There is an extreme close-up of Greg’s hand touching the knitted hat that she wore often, from his point of view so that we can experience what he is going through emotionally. Another extreme close-up of a bright pink wig that she also wore around him when they spent time together, this another reminder of her that we see through Greg’s perspective and again we feel the same emotions that he does at that moment- reflectiveness, sorrow and heartache, conventional for this dramatic genre.
The next close-up is of the last wall in her bedroom with the pairs of scissors that she used to cut out the books, Greg picks up the gold pair in an extreme close-up. Then a wide shot of him holding them is used in the far left of the room to show small size of this gesture that has a great impact on him. The score’s volume rises to show how he is almost done in the room and that he will soon leave her behind. An over-the-shoulder shot is used when he is placing the pair of scissors back onto the place on the wall so that we are with him as he moves on. The acoustic non-diegetic score continually increases pace signalling to the audience that the scene is almost at its end. The camera rotates around the room and Greg, wide shots of the walls and shelves of the room are used so we see how small it all is and how these small items say so much about Rachel, her personality and the memories that they behold to Greg. More acoustic instruments that have a lighter tone are introduced to the non-diegetic score that make the mood more upbeat and uplifting and again reflect Greg moving on with his life, this is accompanied by a close-up of Greg begin to smile and laugh at the good memories the two had which uplifts the audience. A high angle point-of-view shot of the bed and the possessions that she has left for him show what Greg will take with him as he leaves the room. A long shot is used as we exit the room and an upbeat voice-over of Rachel is used again. The camera moves from a high angle shot to a low angle shot of the exterior of the house to introduce a wide shot of Greg walking down the road clinging on to his tokens of Rachel. The clip ends with a high angle long shot from the window of Rachel’s bedroom of Greg walking down the road as a sketch of a bridge is brought into the shot. He walks across this to signal him moving on with his life but with the voice-over present, it makes us feel like Rachel is looking over him and watching him move on. Percussion beats are added to the score as Rachel’s voice-over ends, watching Greg move on with memories of Rachel with him satisfies the audience as they get to see the protagonist become settled without forgetting her.
Overall, the use of camera and sound in this scene rouse feelings of heartache and sadness in the audience, which are paralleled onscreen in the protagonist. The use of perspective introduces the audience into Greg’s thoughts and feelings and they sympathise with him, as they understand what he is going through. The sound subtly underlines the emotions present in this scene and adds to the atmosphere generated onscreen. In conclusion, these techniques are intricately used in this scene and provide an emotionally satisfying scene that is reflective, melancholy and meaningful that generates a response from the audience.