Me before You (2016)

  • Time: 110 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Thea Sharrock
  • Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Jenna Coleman


Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of color. And neither of them knows they’re going to change each other for all time.


  • (RATING: ☆☆ out of 5)


    IN BRIEF: There are disabilities aplenty in this sappy screen adaptation, mostly in its politically-correct thinking.

    GRADE: C-

    SYNOPSIS: A beautiful caretaker falls in love with her handsome quadriplegic patient.

    JIM’S REVIEW: There have been much talk and many catchy phrases about the subject of love that have been set to music: “Love will find a way. Love hurts. Love makes the world go round. Love will keep us together. Love the one you’re with. True love never runs smooth.” These pop ditties are never heard in the insufferable tear-jerker of a movie entitled Me Before You. Still they do form the basis for the relationship of two mismatched beautiful people who become soulmates amid love’s many obstacles.

    The story goes like this: Recently unemployed Louisa (Emilia Clarke) becomes a nursemaid and companion to handsome but clinical depressed patient, Will Trayor (Sam Clafin), once a rugged sportsman and successful executive, the whole package, and now a disheartened quadriplegic. Will has no will to live but Louisa, or Lou as she is lovingly called, is Little Miss Sunshine personified, a kooky supposedly adorable waif and perhaps the perfect antidote to Will’s bouts of suicide. At least Will’s rich parents hope that Lou will be the cure-all to lift Will’s spirits and change his mind and mood swings. It didn’t change mine.

    With an abysmal screenplay by Jojo Moyes and based on her best-selling novel (which I fortunately did not read but am told the book tackles more serious themes), the film shies away from any semblance of reality and settles smack dab in the soapiest of waters. I guess every generation needs its own Love Story, but is it too much to ask for some darker moments to help us relate to Will’s physical condition? One only hears of, but never sees, Will’s pain and suffering.

    Yet Will isn’t the only one suffering here. Any moviegoer in their right mind would want to pull the plug on this claptrap. Truthfully, the whole ethical issue of patient’s rights and euthanasia deserves a fair better and more honest treatment. (That was already done in a film called The Sessions. View that excellent film instead, dear readers.)

    But this is suppose to be a love story, the equivalent to a pulpy romance paperback novel. And on its own terms and genre, the movie fails miserably, mostly due to an insipid directorial debut by Thea Sharrock, who searches out for the tritest of images and succeeds in making the bad even worse, laughably outrageous “exotic” costumes by Jill Taylor, and the hammiest performance by one of the leads.

    Try as he must, Mr. Caiflin does bring some poignancy to his poorly written character. How he was able to keep a straight face throughout this film and watch Ms. Clarke overdo her acting in the most ridiculous of outfits and hair styles would be challenging enough for any actor. The actress is not helped by her director or costumers. She is seen in the most garish of garb, from fuzzy colorful sweaters and busy ugly prints, in outfits any fashionable 13 year-old would instantly reject. Her hair styles range from braids and pigtails to Frau Brucher Germanic up-dos, which telegraph more emotion than the actress can muster. We are suppose to be enamored by Lou’s quirkiness, but the overall effect is an off-putting goofiness. Who could blame Will for ending his life…suicide would be anyone’s choice after experiencing Ms. Clarke’s cutesy performance!

    If nothing else, there is fine supporting work by Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, and Brendan Coyle, all distinguished British actors who would be wise to omit this film from their resume. Also, Stephen Peacocke, resembling a young Hugh Grant, literally does some heavy lifting and delivers a nicely nuanced performance as Will’s full-time doctor, Nathan, one of the few subtlest contributions found in this film. (By the way, in retrospect, everyone is so inexplicably darn good-looking in this movie.)

    With all that is said and done here, writer H. L. Mencken’s ultimate quote of the subject of love may succinctly sum up everything that is wrong with this silly film: “Love is a triumph of imagination over intelligence.” Me Before You has neither of those valued commodities.

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  • Me Before You is essentially a remake of Pretty Woman, except the man of privilege is not only emotionally but physically disabled and the hooker with the heart of gold is a caregiver who’s outfitted like a deranged five-year-old, which seems entirely appropriate since too often she displays the behaviour of one.

    One’s enjoyment of this film will be determined by one’s tolerance of Emilia Clarke’s performance, which is such that the jury is still out if she can truly act or not. Game of Thrones fans may cry foul, but Clarke has yet to prove if she can do more than what she is required and if she brings something to the table other than what the director has already established. There’s no denying that she’s a charming presence and Me Before You showcases a goofiness that’s only been in evidence on various television appearances and on her Instagram page. But this is a goofiness that can set your teeth on edge and foster homicidal tendencies.

    Clarke is Louisa, a young woman is destined for bigger things than living with her family in their cramped house and seeing a training-obsessed boyfriend (Matthew Lewis) who is so obviously wrong for her. Recently laid off, she somehow lands a job as a caregiver to the quadriplegic Will (Sam Claflin), who’s been paralysed since an accident curtailed his perfect life as an all-around golden boy with the equally golden girlfriend, a promising career, and an adventurous lifestyle. Louisa bubbles into his life with her crazy get-ups, corny humour, and unrelenting enthusiasm and it’s not too long before this miserable and pompous man thaws. Soon he’s encouraging her to broaden her horizons and she’s rousing him to stop sulking in his walled castle (literally and figuratively) and start living life again. Can she convince Will not to end his life at an assisted suicide facility in Switzerland?

    The problem with Me Before You isn’t that Will is the fairy godmother figure to Louisa’s Cinderella or the Beast to her Beauty or the Henry Higgins to her Eliza Doolittle or even that the film doesn’t delve too deeply into the quality of life debate. This film runs for nearly two hours, and nearly all of it feels like filler. Jojo Moyes adapted her own best-selling novel and somehow manages to cut off the few thorns it had, expunge all back stories and family dynamics, and leech the narrative of any sense of continuity or momentum. One would be well forgiven for thinking a series of blackouts occurred during the viewing of this film since plot points somehow get from A to Z in a single leap. Director Thea Sharrock doesn’t seem to mind, she’s more concerned with blanketing the film in blandness with her by-the-numbers direction.

    A few escape the filmmakers’ bungles. Charles Dance and Janet McTeer as Will’s parents convey reams of back story with a few glances and gestures. Joanna Lumley enlivens the film in an all-too-brief cameo. Claflin’s subtle playing allows some insight into Will’s suffering and longing for his former life.

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