June 5, 2016

Movie Review: Me Before You

The other day I saw a movie called The Lobster. That film was fantastic, a new take on the romantic comedy that sends it spinning off into the utterly bizarre realm of an undefined future where relationship status is important and people can be turned into animals if they fail to couple. Crazy, right? Anyway, I chose to follow that up with something a bit more traditional. This past weekend saw the release of Me Before You, a romantic comedy that aims to get you right in the proverbial “feels.” I have to say, this is not a type of film that usually gets to me, but every once in awhile one is executed well enough that it cuts through and threatens my tear ducts. No. I did not cry, but the potential was there.

Me Before You was directed by Thea Sharrock and is her feature directorial debut. The screenplay was written by Jojo Moyes, based on her novel. It is the story of a quadriplegic and the unusual path to romance with a quirky young woman who has been hired to be his caregiver. Now, one of the things that attracted me to this was that it was not an insipid CW-styled teen romance, but one that involves adults, well, people who are not teenagers. Is it the best of its kind? No, not really. It has plenty of flaws, but it still managed to work very well for me.

Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games series) stars as Will Traynor, a successful young businessman who leads an active, excitement filled life. We only get a small taste of this before a tragic accident leaves him almost entirely paralyzed from the neck down. While we do get that taste, the story picks up a couple of years down the road. Will has become a bitter man who shows open disdain for his parents and does not get any joy out of existence, trapped in his chair, unable to do anything for himself. In an effort to cheer him up, his parents put out an ad for a caregiver. They hope for someone to perhaps make him smile and allow him to try to enjoy life.

On the other side of the coin is Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones). She is a quirky, talkative young woman who has a unique sense of style, a lack of skills, and a need for a job, having lost the one at a cafe when it closed down. In an act of desperation, she interviews for the job, for which she has no experience. Will’s mother seems to see something and hires her on the spot.

Now, the movie is not exactly original, it goes through the expected motions as it barrels towards its inevitable conclusion, but it does manage to give us a couple of characters you want to root for. We watch them awkwardly try to navigate their working relationship, Emilia trying to figure out what she is supposed to do and Will doing his best to be grumpy and dismissive. Eventually the arrive at a balance that works, but things begin to change.

Me Before You is standard storytelling, there are no surprises. The characters could probably have been written a little better, given a little more depth to allow for insight into their personalities. Perhaps if we had more time with Will pre-accident we might understand his surliness better, or maybe if we got to see more of Lou and her boyfriend (Harry Potter’s Matthew Lewis) we might see a little more of what makes her tick. Sadly, we do not.

Somehow, with the flaws and lack of true depth, and perhaps lack of actual reality, the leads still manage to have some chemistry and work well at manipulating the heartstrings. There is a possibility that the story was left bare so as to allow the manipulations to work. In any case, I liked it. It broke through my exterior and did have an affect. Watching them grow closer and realizing where it was inevitably going was a bit devastating.

There is something endearing about the way Lou goes about her work. Perhaps impossibly quirky and cut considering everything else around her, but her presence sort of brightens the screen. Then there is Will and we watch as his attitudes change, but his resolve remains undeterred. It is fun to watch how the relationship develops, how it affects not only them, but those around them. It is a bit of a litmus test as to how the relationships fit together and how they can affect the personality of those around them in a rather profound fashion. It is also a reminder to live life to the fullest, you never know when it could all be taken away.

Me Before You may not be a great film, but not every film has to be. It is a movie that worked on me, that cut through my defenses and won me over. It is a sweet, sad tale that does not pretend to be anything but. Will it work for you? I don’t know, I can only speak for me and I can say I had to sit there through the credits a touch longer than usual so as to prepare myself to be around people.


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