Me Before You
Director: Thea Sharrock
Writer: Jojo Moyes
Based on: Jojo Moyes‘ novel
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Jenna Coleman, Matthew Lewis, Stephen Peacocke, Vanessa Kirby, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Samantha Spiro, Brendan Coyle, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Joanna Lumley
Seen on: 2.7.2016
Lou (Emilia Clarke) loves fashion, her life, people in general, her family in particular and her job at the café. But when that café is shut down, Lou finds herself at a loss. She needs to find another job to help support her family but her options are very limited. That’s when she hears of a job with the local rich family, the Traynors. Camilla (Janet McTeer) is looking for a caretaker for her son Will (Sam Claflin) who was paralyzed from the neck down in an accident and she sees something in Lou that she hopes will give Will some of his joie de vivre back. A plan that initially seems to fail miserably.
Me Before You is a cheesy film, filled with romance and romanticization, quirky characters and grand gestures. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re probably going to be very happy with it.
The film makes it pretty clear that Will doesn’t think his life is worth living as a quadriplegic. So much so that he has decided to opt for assisted suicide in Switzerland, an option is family is rich enough to afford. He has promised his parents a few months more, months his mother in particular hopes to use to show him how great life is by making him fall in love. I am still conflicted about this particular plot line. On the one hand, I am very much for the right to bodily autonomy for everyone – and that includes the decision to end one’s life as well. Will’s fight for that was well portrayed and I especially liked that the film makes sure that Will’s decision is not because he is simply too sad and lonely to want to live, so whether or not Lou loves him and vice versa really isn’t the issue.
On the other hand Will is the only person with a disability in the film. I would have been so much more comfortable with his decision to end his life, if we had seen another disabled person who is fully able to enjoy their life with disability, even when there are complications. Especially since Will is in the best possible position you can have when faced with a disability: he has a rich, supportive family and two employees who will and can do anything to make his life better. It’s the danger of the single story: we have yet another film about a disabled person who doesn’t think their life is worth living.
Politics aside, Me Before You is a sweet and fun film. Sam Claflin does a good job as Will (wouldn’t it have been nice if they had actually cast a quadriplegic person, though…), but it’s Emilia Clarke who really shines as Lou. And not just due to her extraordinary wardrobe. Lou may be the apotheosis of The Quirky Girl(tm), but Clarke manages to make her human and not just a trope. I did wish that we got to spend a bit more time with Nathan, Will’s nurse (Stephen Peacocke), precisely because he seemed so utterly normal next to them, but both are incredibly likeable. And that made me root for them, which is probably the most important requirement for a RomCom to work.
The entire film feels so polished and sure of itself, I never would have pegged it as a first time feature from its director, Thea Sharrock, or its writer, Jojo Moyes (adapting her own novel that I haven’t read). I wouldn’t mind the two of them pairing up again, maybe to film the sequel to the story, After You? Now that would be nice.