Me Before You Movie Review
About a month ago, my wife was asking when I would be getting a screening for ME BEFORE YOU. I confess, I had no idea what she was talking about because I had never heard of the film. So after a quick IMDB search and a glance at the movie poster, I came to the conclusion that it’s going to be some schmaltzy love story. But something special caught my eye. The Mother of Dragons, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones” is playing the lead!…well, the actress Emilia Clarke is playing the lead. My interest was peaked.
As we sat down in the theater filled with rows and rows of women and my wife pulls out the complimentary Kleenex box provided by the studio reps, I’m fully aware that my GoT obsession will probably not be fulfilled in the way that I wish. I begin simply hoping for the best. As to my expectation, ME ABOUT YOU starts out light and cheesy. The film goes through the formulaic system of girl meets boy in an unlikely scenario with a few bumpy roadblocks and typical cutesy humor (My dress tore during the interview. Oh my!). But something began to happen as the film progressed. The characters and their story reached me. I’m not sure if ME BEFORE YOU is a great movie. In fact, I’m sure it’s not. But the genuine goodness from the characters and the excessive positivity from our heroine completely won me over.
Louisa Clark, known as Lou, (Emilia Clarke – Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones”) is a twenty-something girl with a child-like fashion sense and an infectious happiness who needs a job to help support her parents (Brendan Coyle – Mr. Bates from “Downton Abbey”, Samantha Spiro – Melissa Tarly from “Game of Thrones”) and siblings. Unqualified, she lands the unique position as a caretaker for a recently paralyzed, wealthy young businessman and adventure enthusiast named Will Traynor (Sam Claflin – Finnick Odair from THE HUNGER GAMES Series). Unable to use his body from the neck down, Will has become depressed and volatile. His mother (Janet McTeer, DIVERGENT Series) and father (Charles Dance – Tywin Lannister from “Game of Thrones”) are concerned for their son and hire Lou, hoping that her delightful positivity might work its charm on him.
Based on the best selling novel by Jojo Moyes, who also penned the screenplay, ME BEFORE YOU is different from other movies in that there is no villain nor hateful person to disrupt things. No dumb miscommunication nor people who are just being untruthful. ME BEFORE YOU has genuine characters with honest feelings. They may be from different economic and social backgrounds with opposing views and goals but they are all generally good at heart. Lou’s health nut boyfriend played by Matthew Lewis (a vastly different look from his days as Neville Longbottom in the HARRY POTTER Series), is perhaps a bit selfish and misguided in his affection, but he’s not a jerk. Surprisingly, the film takes an interesting turn and tackles a rather controversial topic about life and death without taking sides. I may not agree with the choices that are made by a certain character towards the end of the film, but that is not my choice to make. The film’s strong message about the power of persuasion through leading and loving by example is one that can be applicable universally.
With oddly framed or close up shots of the characters, the direction from Thea Sharrock was sometimes distracting. The multiple musical montages were definitely unnecessary and appeared like an excuse to chew time rather than to display the loss of time. However, using a mostly vibrant color palette through Lou’s quaint family village home and Will’s beautiful London castle, Sharrock is able to express mood and place. Choosing to play it safe, it strikes me as odd that faith and God isn’t addressed as it is a prevalent conversation when speaking to one’s mortality. Thankfully, the talented cast is able to overcome and elevate many of the film’s shortcomings. The entire film would crumble if the likability and chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin wasn’t believable. Both actors sparkle, proving they can play against type and their range to be a casting commodity in future roles. Clarke is particularly adorable. Overly expressive with a wide-eyed toothy smile, Clarke is the perfect embodiment for her character’s irresistible optimistic approach.
Technically, there are a lot of things wrong with ME BEFORE YOU, but the actors make it work and the film still manages to deliver compelling themes about bravery, understanding, and loving thy neighbor. Yes, it’s generally predictable, but it has so much heart that much like Lou’s cheerful demeanor, the film may overtake you. It did me. While my head says it’s average at best, my heart can’t help but be endeared to it. I may have refused the complimentary tissue, but that doesn’t mean my eyes were dry.