BLUE FRONT RATED
17 year old Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann) is a senior at Pittsburgh’s Schenley High School who avoids close engagement with the various students. He learns that fellow student and former childhood friend of his, Rachel Kushner (Olivia Cooke), has been diagnosed with leukemia and is forced by his parents (Nick Offerman and Connie Britton) to befriend her in her time of need. Despite an awkward first encounter on Rachel’s staircase, with neither of them truly wanting the other’s company, Greg manages to strike up a conversation about her pillow collection. She comes to find his quirky personality and honesty endearing.
Greg introduces Rachel to his “coworker” Earl (RJ Cyler) (who tells Rachel that Greg avoids calling people his friend out of fear they won’t reciprocate), with whom he makes short films parodying famous film titles. Despite Greg’s reluctance, Earl shares their collection with her, which she finds entertaining. As Rachel begins chemotherapy, Greg begins spending less time on schoolwork and more time with and caring for her. Though Rachel suffers through her treatment and seems to get worse and worse, Greg, who often breaks the fourth wall, assures viewers that she does not die in the end.
Madison (Katherine C. Hughes), a pretty girl at school, convinces Greg and Earl to make a film dedicated to Rachel, and Rachel persuades Greg to apply to a local college. Greg continues to ignore schoolwork, and eventually school altogether, in order to finish the film. After realizing that her chemotherapy is doing more harm than good, Rachel opts to discontinue her treatment. Greg and Rachel have a heated argument over her choice where she points out his unwillingness to do anything selfless unless he’s told to do so. He leaves, devastated that he can no longer help her.
In a rage, Greg confronts Earl, blaming him for the events leading to the end of his friendship with Rachel. Earl in turn admonishes Greg’s inability to care and sympathize for anyone but himself despite the genuine affection she gave him, and ultimately punches Greg after the latter dares him to. Later, Earl gives Greg a heartfelt testimonial for Rachel before letting him know that he’s finished with their friendship. Greg also gets an email telling him that due to his failing grades, his admission to the college he planned to attend has been revoked.
Later in the year, Greg’s mom lets him know that Rachel is back in the hospital, which Greg originally believes to be for more treatment, before learning that she’s there to die. Madison invites him to the prom, but at the last moment, he decides to go to the hospital. During the journey there, Greg is asked by the limo driver if he loves the girl he’s going to see, a question he finds himself unable to answer. He brings his iPhone and a portable projector and places a corsage around Rachel’s wrist before running the film he made for her on the front wall of her room, lying beside her as they did when they watched his other films. Rachel is moved to tears by the movie. However, shortly after viewing the film, she falls into a coma, dying a few hours later. Greg admits to the viewer that he lied earlier about Rachel making it in the end.
At her shiva, Greg is comforted by Rachel’s mom as they grieve together for their loss. Earl and Greg reconcile. During the funeral, Greg sneaks up into Rachel’s room. He finds a card from her explaining that she wrote a letter to the college Greg applied to in order to let them know that he missed school for her sake. Rachel states her wish for Greg to take any of her possessions that he pleases. As he reads the college letter, he sees that Rachel called him the kindest and most caring person she had ever met. Greg also finds several intricate carvings within her books depicting scenes of her with Greg and Earl, proving that she still cared for him, and reminding him of what his mentor teacher said when Rachel got sick, that you can still learn new things about someone after they die. Greg leaves with one of the books containing a personal carving and his favorite of Rachel’s pillows.
Some time later, Greg writes his story of his time with Rachel and mails it to the college along with the film he made for her with a warning that “the last person who saw this immediately went into a coma and DIED.”