Directed by: Thea Sharrock – Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Brendan Coyle
If you’ve read the best selling book that this is based on, you already know that you’re heading for weepy central with this. If you haven’t – oopsie – spoiler alert. Much has been written about Me Before You before it even hits screens, due to the subject matter (seriously – spoiler alert – don’t read on if you don’t want to know what happens) with disability groups up in arms about the plot.
A little controversy can be a good thing for a movie in terms of getting bums on seats, but obviously it helps if the movie has a bit of substance. Since this was adapted for screen by the books author, Jojo Moyes, you can safely assume that she has retained the ethos of her original story, but the idea that someone would rather commit assisted suicide than live a life after paralysis hasn’t gone down well in some quarters (I did warn you!)
Claflin plays Will Traynor, a wealthy, brash and adventurous young man, who was paralysed after an accident, and who has become resentful of the life he has lost. When his mother hires Louisa Clark (Clarke) to care for him, he slowly opens up to her, and begins to reintegrate himself into the world. She in turn has her eyes opened to the wider world that has escaped her until now. But prior to her hiring, Will had planned to travel to Switzerland in six months time to take his own life, and as the deadline approaches, Louisa becomes frantic, realising that she hasn’t managed to change his mind.
Like I said, weepy central. And there is no denying that this will definitely bring a bit of moisture to the eye area. Claflin does a great job as Will. Due to the character’s situation, all he has to convey anything to the audience is his eyes, and you really do feel his angst and pain.
Clarke is a bit too simpering as Louisa, and a few fans of the book have questioned her casting. That said, she has a great chemistry with Claflin, which helps you overcome any doubts about her. Everyone else is very much supporting, so the audience can focus fully on Will and Louisa. There is also some stunning cinematography, and a surprising amount of humour in the tale, given the subject matter.
On the negative side – this is completely shameless in its desire to affect you, which often makes it feel a bit one-tonal. There isn’t enough shading or layering to the story to give it any real depth, despite the debate it raises. They skirt very much around the subject of Will’s assisted suicide. It is there, but never discussed in a huge amount of depth or analysed properly, to the extent that the audience can form an opinion on it either way. This was an opportunity to really open up a dialogue about what is currently a taboo subject, and I did feel they soft-soaped it a bit. Perhaps it was fear of upsetting those who were already complaining, but in doing so, the stakes feel reduced somewhat.
Fans of the book will have a mixed reaction to this. If you haven’t read the book, you will just get swept up in the sentimentality. If you want to be put through a bit of an emotional wringer, then this won’t disappoint, but it won’t stimulate you much beyond that level – which is fine. We all need a good cry every now and then. Just don’t expect anything more from Me Before You. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll go home, and you probably won’t think much further of it.
In Cinemas June 3rd!