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Me Before You Review

"A sugar-coated romance about euthanasia"

Based on a novel by Jojo Moyes Me Before You is a British attempt at a The Fault in Our Stars style romance movie, with an ensemble cast of British talent for a movie that attempts to be touching but clumsily handles its sensitive subject matter.

Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) is a man who seems to have a perfect life – he is an adrenaline seeking successful city trader living in London with his beautiful girlfriend. But Will is left paralysed with only a limited use of his fingers after being run over by a motorbike.

Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark (Emilia Clarke) is a 26-year-old woman who is hired to be Will’s carer after losing her job and has to become her family’s main breadwinner. As she and Will start to warm to each other, Lou finds out Will plans to end his own life with the Dignitas service in Switzerland. Upon hearing this, Lou sets out to prove to Will that life is worth living while Will encourages Lou that she should do more with her life.
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Me Before You was met with controversy in the UK for two reasons: The first was because it cast an able-bodied in a disabled role – a charge that is hard to justify because we have to see Will being physically able. The more serious issue is the movie has been called a disability snuff film – its premier in London was met with protests and protestors started a hashtag saying #MeBeforeEuthanasia. It is a serious charge and in the movie’s defence we need to see it from Will’s point of view – he was a man at his physical peak and living the high life (there was even a video saying he was like a real James Bond, a hint of a role Mr. Claflin wants?) Everything had been taken away; his girlfriend, his job and his friends, which leads him to sink into a deep depression. The movie also tries to show  different viewpoints: Will’s father (Charles Dance) does not see the point in fighting the decision because he will try to kill himself anyway, Will’s mother (Janet McTeer) tries to take Will out of the ending his life view and Lou’s mother (Samantha Spiro) has moral objections because of her Christian faith.

However, Will is man from a very wealthy family – they literally own a castle. His family is able to cater to his every need, including adapting his home, provide any health assistance required and afford expensive excursions and trips. Most people in Will’s situation do not have those luxuries, families have to work and provide healthcare without much support or have to place a person like Will in a care home. The story would be more relatable if Will was from a modest background. For a character who advocates that life is worth living, Will does not follow his own advice.
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Me Before You was directed by Thea Sharrock, making her directional debut. She had previously worked as a theater director. With Moyes, who adapted her own novel, the pair have balance out the movie’s ambitions to be a light, mainstream romance movie tackling a serious and complex issue. What they end up making is a fairy tale – the movie is set in a picturesque English town (it was actually shot in Pembroke Castle in Wales) and Will’s family are so wealthy they can afford anything for Will, including a luxury vacation – similar to the famous John Green adaptation. Lou’s family are portrayed to be a struggling working class family – the kitchen is crammed and filled with activities and the house is stuffed with people. These moments felt authentic and Will is able to whisk her away from her humdrum life.

The casting director clearly worked overtime for Me Before You – besides getting a Hunger Games actor and two Game of Thrones actors (two stars who never share a scene on the show) the movie also features the Doctor’s former companion Jenna Coleman, Harry Potter alumni Matthew Lewis – playing Lou’s fitness obsessed, self-centered boyfriend and Joanna Lumley just appears for one scene. Two of the minor plays, Vanessa Kirby as Will’s former girlfriend and Diane Morgan as a snobby maitre d’ looked a lot like Natalie Dormer and Katherine Parkinson respectively.
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Claflin has moved from his good looking but bland image that plagued his early roles (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Snow White and the Huntsman) and shown himself to be an interesting actor – he was very dark and sinister in The Riot Club. Claflin easily played Will as the action man part of the character and makes Will a very bitter and cynical man who answers everyone with sarcasm. Clarke as Clark is kooky with a capital with a K, someone who is overly clipper, wears overly bright clothes and is clumsy – she provides some of the movie’s broad comedy. She suffers embarrassing situations, says some silly things, particularly when she gets nervous and is what us Brits would call a little dippy. When it’s revealed that Lou could have studied Fashion at the University of Manchester, my personal reaction was a British expletive. Clarke was okay in the main role though Coleman would have been a better fit for the main role.

Despite the movie’s serious subject matter Me Before You aims for the safest, middle of the road route possible. It is a chocolate box movie where it is pretty to look at but skirts around the issues its presents. The movie does not have the nuance to handle complexity of the euthanasia debate and it does not have much appeal beyond fans of romances and tearjerkers.

Rating
5.0
Pros
  • The ensemble cast
  • Some nice looking scenery
Cons
  • Unremarkable and unadvantageous despite its subject manner
  • Plays itself too safe

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