Published on June 13th, 2016 | by Admin
Me Before You – Film Review
Reviewed by Conor Bromhead on the 8th of June 2016
Roadshow Films presents a film by Thea Sharrock
Produced by: Alison Owen, Karen Rosenfelt
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Brendan Coyle, Steve Peacocke
Screenplay by: Jojo Moyes
Edited by: John Wilson
Running Time: 110 minutes
Release Date: the 16th of June 2016
Portraying disability in a movie, especially a romance movie, can be tricky. Being too honest and revealing could turn away the average moviegoer, whereas being too light and fantastical can deprive the genuine plight of the disabled. Me Before You definitely falls into the latter camp. Based on the successful 2012 novel of the same name by Jojo Moyes, who also provides the screenplay, Me Before You is directed by theatre director Thea Sharrock in her feature debut.
Working-class and in her mid-twenties, Louisa “Lou” Clark is a bubbly, ditzy everygirl played by Emilia Clarke who has just lost her job in a cafe. She subsequently finds herself employed by the wealthy Traynor family to care for their quadriplegic son Will Traynor played by Sam Claflin. Wealthy, dashing, wealthy, foul-tempered, and wealthy, Will is the opposite of Lou and while their dynamic has parallels to the plot-line of The Intouchables (2012) it soon becomes apparent what this move is: a fairytale love story. Will, our prince in this story, even owning his own castle and has enough money that many issues surrounding his condition seem magically non-existent.
Two years on after an injury Will’s affliction is presented in a very PG fashion as per the rating of the movie. Lou is only hired to keep Will company, not care for his every need. Fitting of the fantasy porn that the movie ultimately is whenever something too icky is supposed to be happening another medical carer materialises in the form of top Aussie bloke Nathan, played by Steve Peacocke. The worst condition we see Will in is wearing an oxygen mask in hospital or sweating with pneumonia, conveniently also shirtless and showing off the fine figure he’s somehow maintained in two years of paralysis. It’s as if the filmmakers thought showing our prince in any compromising situations would endanger his status as a desirable man. It’s not only the gritty scenes that are removed to make the film palatable for a wide audience, more trying aspects of Will’s condition are seldom even referenced in dialogue apart from several quips about the bathroom. When the film tries to make light and joke around with being paraplegic it typically misses the mark. Playing with glaring faux-pas, like Lou’s working class father going to shake Will’s hand, gets old quickly. The jokes don’t appear to carry the intent of disrespect or cross any lines, the problem is most of them are just not very funny.
However, as the movie progressed I still found myself getting invested in the characters. Lou starts out off-the-charts hyper with Clarke’s over-expressive bubbly performance amplifying this to the point of annoyance; luckily she gets toned down before too long. Will’s transition from forlorn, callous dickhead to expressive, caring charmer is enjoyable yet standard, save for his disability. It all remains watchable even as it falls into generic romance cliché, right down to making a dramatic exit from an ex’s wedding with Lou in Will’s arms; except she’s on, not in, his arms and he’s in his wheelchair as they speed away in a cloud of dust. The on-screen chemistry between the two leads is strong, which is further propped up by the strong supporting cast in Steve Peacocke’s Nathan the carer alongside Janet McTeer and Charles Dance who play the Traynor parents.
Me Before You, alongside the book it’s based upon, is copping flak for its portrayal of Will’s self-loathing for what he has become when compared with his previous self and the choices he makes throughout the movie. Even through The Intouchables-esque, bucket-list journey, Will’s struggle with the limited control he has on his life is the best feature of the movie, not a failing or worth complaining about in my eyes. Its admiral how Me Before You sticks to its guns in this department, sanitised as it may be. It is this sanitation that deflates the movie most; it could have been many magnitudes more gripping had Will’s quadriplegia not be treated as a fantasy illness in a fairytale world. While never becoming too distasteful this makes Me Before You feel like a wish fulfilment fantasy for those who would yearn to be in Lou’s bumblebee striped tights as she takes care of her prince charming (as long as someone else does actual care parts). If you are such a person, then Me Before You is one for you.
Summary: Enjoyable but substitutes the genuine plight of disability with romance cliche fantasy.