“Hallmark Channel.” That’s my first thought on where the film belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I like Emilia Clarke well enough. Hell, I don’t blame her for TERMINATOR: GENISYS. But despite the cuteness she seemed to exude, it looked like just another FAULT IN OUR STARS, or ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. I swear, the “fall in love with a sick person” should be its own genre. But hey, something about knocking before trying? Oh well, it was the last movie on my movie-watching itinerary, so this is my honest opinion of ME BEFORE YOU.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by author JoJo Moyes, the story follows Louisa “Lou” Clark (Emilia Clarke), an upbeat and happy young woman living with her unwealthy family, just trying to get by. Lou did have a job to help out, but the cafe that she worked for goes out of business and she has to look for a new job, despite her limited skillset. With help from a friend, she catches wind of a job-offer that pays very well, basically taking care of a handicapped gentleman, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), of the wealthy Traynor family. Will used to be a kind-hearted and adventurous soul, until a motorcycle ran over him, permanently paralyzing him from the neck down, with only enough movement in his hand to operate his wheelchair. With virtually no desire to live, he wants to be put out of his misery after six months, promising his parents to give them time to cope with their future loss. But of course, they want to try and convince him to keep living. And when Lou comes into the picture, she is met with cold sarcasm from Will, but she is determined to make the best of her situation with him.
DISCLAIMER: I have not read the book this movie is adapted from.
Two for god damn two! First POPSTAR, now this! Oh man, again, I was so wrong about this movie.
Alright, first and foremost, Clarke owns this movie. She has a million dollar smile and radiates so much bubbly and peppy energy that a nuclear bomb would need to overcompensate to feel adequate (someone play “Atom Bomb Baby” by Five Stars while I say this). Usually, overly happy characters like this annoy me, but dear god, Clarke is absolutely precious. Her undying optimism and enthusiasm is mercilessly addicting and is one of those well-written characters that you know if cries will just destroy your soul. Let’s see, stand-out moments would be her birthday scene. Earlier in the story, Lou reveals that as a child, she had a pair of “bumblebee tights,” a black and yellow stripped pattern and wore them wherever she went, expressing a tremendous amount of love for them, but inevitably outgrew them. On Lou’s birthday, she’s blessed with a few gifts, one of them a lackluster, somewhat self-centered gift from her boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis). But her last gift is from Will, and it’s a pair of her beloved bumblebee tights and goes absolutely ballistic with joy. Forget any of the other heart-warming scenes in the movie, this is where shit hits home with the feels for me. Lou positively glows like a sun and I dare you not to smile with her. Plus, there’s a hilarious reaction that’s icing on this cake of adorable. I have no idea who I should blame for this performance. Is Clarke really that bubbly in real life, or did director Thea Sharrock just excel at bringing out the best performance out of her? Either way, incredible job. Seriously, someone sing with me:
“Atom bomb baby, boy she can start,
One of those chain reactions in my heart
A big explosion, big and loud
Mushrooms me right up on a cloud”
Yes, I play FALLOUT 4! Shut it!
Second, Claflin. I hope this is the first of many great characters he’s set to play in the future because I’m convinced that he’s a terrific actor. Yes, he does well enough in the Hunger Games movies, but lets face it, he’s not the selling point of the movie. He’s a damn convincing reason to see this movie. While Clarke may be the heart of the movie, Claflin is the soul. He perfectly conveys a man who has given up on his life, but always finds ways for the audience to laugh with him, hate him, and love him. His initial cynicism is definitely emotionally layered. He harbors a great deal of bitterness toward life, considering the accident took away his ability to live his life the way he wants to and his girlfriend left him for his best friend, it’s completely relatable. No, it’s not justified, it’s clearly no way to treat someone who is just trying to help him get by, but it’s not hard to see how someone would act like this toward another. Stand-out moment… the first interaction with Will and Lou. The first thing he does when she says hello to him, Will immediately pretends to have a seizure, which gets an instant freak-out from Lou. Once his charade is concluded, he does play out the rest of the scene like he doesn’t care about Lou and just wants to get all of this over with. It’s easy to dislike him for his behavior, but it’s hard to forget why he acts this way too, making for a pretty compelling and complex character.
And I won’t lie, the ending… didn’t see that coming.
Also, I want to tip my blue Mass Effect SR-2 hat to screenwriter JoJo Moyes, whom also wrote the novel (in case anyone missed that tid-bit of information). Following in the footsteps of other novelists-gone-screenwriting like Emma Donoghue perfectly transitions from the page to the screen. What do I mean? One example I like to use is THE HUNGER GAMES (2012). While it’s a perfectly serviceable film in my opinion, the dialog in the movie felt very much like it was ripped from the novel. It didn’t feel natural, like actual people talking, but rather characters in a story talking. That movie had three screenwriters: Suzanne Collins, author of the novel series, Gary Ross, also the film’s director, and Billy Ray, screenwriter of such movies like SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015) and CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013). It’s clear that there was a great deal of contradiction in the lines written for the characters. Now while I can’t say for sure how the dialog in the book goes, I can still appreciate a writer who knows how to write natural dialog in a film that not all novelists would know. Some things work fine enough in a book, but acted out can be a very different story. I know it’s a small thing to point out, but it’s those little things behind the scenes that I truly give the film an authentic and passionate feel to it.
Upon some research, my dollar-tree worth of research, I discovered that this film actually caused some controversy among the disabled community, believing that the film says that disabled people hinder their friends and families’ lives and also promotes suicide. A movement was started called #MeBeforeEuthanasia. I’m personally going to stay out of it, as I know very little about this hot button topic and therefore have no right to speak my mind without knowing both sides of the argument. I will, however, include a few links to websites that seem like they know what they’re talking about to bring forth this topic to those who may not know anything about it and would like to learn more.
Overall, I loved this movie. I think it was wonderfully performed by the lead actors, the humor was great, it’s a memorable story, and I think it’s worth watching. If you’re a fan of the romance genre, this one is for you.
My honest rating: 5/5