Me Before You
Directed by Thea Sharrock
Opens June 3
Me Before You is the kind of well-intentioned sappy melodrama that can’t help but feel a bit old-fashioned. Adapted from the bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes (who also wrote the screenplay), the film concerns a young woman, Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke), who after losing her waitressing job becomes a caretaker for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) a hugely wealthy man who is paralyzed after a tragic accident. Louisa and Will’s tale is a familiar one of worlds colliding: Louisa is working class, and the difference between her cramped, cozy family home and Will’s literal family castle is so stark as to be unintentionally humorous.
The film deserves some credit for featuring a disabled character as a romantic lead and addressing the complexities around assisted suicide. While it’s a tearjerker, it leaves some room for quirkiness, mostly in the form of Louisa’s colorful, eccentric-elementary-school-teacher-style outfits. The film’s clean and commercial portrait of upper-class environs is oddly reminiscent of Fifty Shades of Grey. A bit too much suspension of disbelief is required, and may leave some viewers rolling their eyes: how was Louisa able to get this caretaker job with virtually no relevant experience? And how has she stayed with her dolt of a boyfriend (Matthew Lewis), whose only personality trait is an obsession with running marathons, for so long? Fans of the novel may be able to overlook such quibbles. Emilia Clarke, well-known for her role on Game of Thrones, brings a plucky wholesomeness here—her thick eyebrows are in constant exaggerated motion, and combined with her borderline-silly outfits sometimes give the impression of a cartoon character brought to life. Claflin has an acerbic charm, and it’s frustrating when both characters give into platitudes (“You only get one life,” “Live boldly,” etc.) later in the film.
The gloss of Me Before You has a certain appeal: the beds onscreen always look straight out of either a five-star hotel or a whimsical bed-and-breakfast, and whenever rain falls, it comes down with a forceful elegance that befits the onscreen drama. The film may veer dangerously close to Hallmark card territory, but its earnestness is strangely comforting, if not always entirely effective.