I sort of hate myself for loving “Me Before You” as much as I did. I’m not one to fall for a sappy romantic drama but this movie captured my attention (and my heart) from the get-go. The relateable characters, as likeable as they are authentic, and the film’s surprise twist (that I didn’t see coming) make this one a winner. Any film that presents itself as a run-of-the-mill love story but then manages to inspire, shock, surprise and ultimately touch my heart is a winner in my book.
This film is based on the hit book of the same name by author Jo Jo Moyes. I didn’t read the source material but still responded well to the film. The movie tells the story of the relationship between ditzy Louisa (Emilia Clarke), a quirky small town girl and wealthy Will (Sam Claflin), a paralyzed former playboy. When Louisa is hired as a caretaker for the sarcastic and reluctant Will, a different type of love story blossoms.
The characters themselves aren’t terribly complex, but it doesn’t matter. The two leads have an amazing chemistry which makes the story feel truly touching and not at all corny. Yes, this film is packed with more than a few clichés, but these multiple clichés didn’t have me sarcastically rolling my eyes — they instead had me emotionally invested every step of the way.
Is this outstanding, compelling, fine art? Nah. But it’s a satisfying, romantic and realistic exploration of what it means to truly live.
“Me Before You” is a chick flick that is significantly better than the Nicholas Sparks fare that’s usually inflicted on film audiences (seriously, it’s almost as though movie studios have forgotten that other people write these stories, too). It works because it’s not a paint-by-the-numbers film that is completely predictable. There are a few surprises in store even for regular moviegoers that make this one worth checking out.
If you’re interested at all in the movie, you probably know the basic outline of the story: working class girl Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) is hired by the parents in a wealthy family to look after their son, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). Will is a successful thirtysomething businessman who recently suffered an accident that left him a quadriplegic and angry at the world. Over time, the two develop feelings for one another as Louisa helps Will remember what it is to live again.
The movie works because the relationship between Louisa and Will is believable and natural. Although Clarke (better known from her role as in Daenerys Targaryen on “Game of Thrones”) is not the most talented actress, she works as Louisa; from her deer-in-headlights demeanor early in the film as she’s introduced to Will to her infectious optimism as she’s trying to get through to Will, she injects a relentless likeability into this role that wins the hearts of both Will and the audience. Although Claflin isn’t going to be vying for an Oscar with this performance, he’s nevertheless enjoyable and sympathetic as Will, and he fortunately never ventures into the same stunt-casting territory where Eddie Redmayne and his overacting rules the roost.
Aside from the Clark-Traynor story, the best aspect of the movie is its treatment of Will as a quadriplegic. In stories like this one, we would typically view Will and his prognosis through the rose-colored lens of the able-bodied. In “Me Before You,” the film doesn’t try to tell Will how he should feel, or presume (in paternalistic fashion) to know what’s best for Will. Instead, the movie listens to Will and places value on his world view. I found this take refreshingly different from what we’re used to seeing in big Hollywood romance pictures like this one; one hopes that progressive stories like this one might help sway opinions and help inform the way we treat people like Will as a society.
While the movie is clearly better than its Nicholas Sparks-driven ilk, it is never quite able to cross the threshold from pretty good to greatness. It’s worth your time, but not a must-see.