The Me Before You trailers were constantly being screened at the theatre every time I watched a film, and I wondered if this sugary date movie had missed the Valentine’s Day deadline. The first impression I got of the movie, a Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke vehicle, is that it felt very much like a Nicholas Sparks adaptation with British accents.
I was prepared to give it a miss – until they brought out the Ed Sheeran-heavy soundtrack. Then by the gods, we must watch this, people!
Based on the bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes, the movie stars Claflin as William, a former London hotshot paralysed in a biking accident. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with Louisa (an effervescent Clarke), a contented and highly optimistic small town woman hired to care for him.
Louisa’s goofy but charming antics seem to be winning over William who is understandably angry at the world. But she soon finds out just how crucial her caretaker role is, and that she’s in fact racing against time.
You know the drill. Cheerful girl-next-door meets haughty rich boy. Pride-and-prejudice-y tension and sarcastic exchanges ensue. Girl’s unassuming humour chips away at boy’s hardened exterior. Friendship and funny repartees! Heart-shaped eyes emoji. Whirlwind romance. Enter The Crisis! Followed by more drama.
Me Before You could only end one of two ways, and both trajectories are just as predictable.
What’s surprising though is that the film really isn’t as sappy as I expected thanks to decently witty dialogue, a dash of LOL-worthy humour, and a pair of headlining stars who are charismatic and ridiculously good-looking. Their chemistry feels genuine.
It’s difficult not to succumb to their charms, particularly Clarke as Louisa. She exudes a sweetness and natural mirth that are infectious, if not a tad earnest. I never noticed this before in Game of Thrones and Terminator: Genisys, but Clarke acts with her eyebrows! It’s quite distracting and I hope she drops this performance tic soon.
Having said that, the film is also cloyingly sweet and barely scratches the surface of the disability and [spoiler alert] euthanasia issues at hand. William’s condition was used purely to manipulate our emotions, and create a tearjerker of a love story. It does not honestly explore the thoughts and experiences of quadriplegic patients and, for some, their desire to medically end their own life with dignity.
Unlike Javier Barden’s nuanced depiction of real-life quadriplegic and euthanasia campaigner Ramon Sampedro in The Sea Inside (2004), Claflin’s William is a problematic portrait of disability stereotypes.
Watch Me Before You if you want to decompress by giving in to the feels and shedding a few tears. But considering the film’s lack of depth, it won’t be satisfying if you’re looking for something that nourishes the mind and soul.
Me Before You is out in cinemas tomorrow. Will you catch it?