Me Before You is an adapted screenplay of a novel by the same name. Interestingly enough, a rare occurrence happened where the novelist, Jojo Moyes, adapted her own screenplay. Even stranger still was combining that with a relatively unknown director, Thea Sharrock who’s only claim to credit was a few mini series directing stints for British dramas. That combination is enough to spell bad omen, yet somehow it worked out quite well and we get a movie chock full of cliche romantic dramedy right out of the Nicholas Sparks mold, love formed amidst or ending in tragic circumstances, yet love prevails beyond no matter the obstacle. That’s one of the few criticisms that can be gleaned from the film besides a bit of rushed parts that needed more time to breath. A film like this needed about 5-10 minutes more of scene extension to really hit home with a few rushed scenes but nothing detrimental to the overall movie. The key scenes in the picture were perfectly paced and performed.
Something wonderful happened when the previews ended and the opening production credits finished…we jump right in, wasting no time setting up the central characters. In a quick 5 minutes you understand who these two protagonists are, their situations and standing in life and a bit of their personality. Emilia Clarke as Lou and Sam Clafin as Will are drastically different in personality and presentation which exudes a catching chemistry between the pair. Lou is awkward and somehow Clarke is transformed to an ugly duckling type that blossoms over the course of 2 hours, but never loses that initial quirk. Will is brash quick witted and cocky, a bit of an asshole. His being wheelchair bound has much to so with that as we find out he’s a from a rich family, he was personally successful and lived an adventure filled life only to end up a quadriplegic. The pair give so many precious moments of laughter, and tears. There’s a lot to love about this flick, and not much at all to dislike.
Speaking of things to like, the actors, up and down the cast list were spot on.
Emilia Clarke: the Game of Thrones star is fantastic as our favorite Khaleesi, but her first foray into mainstream feature film as a lead was a disaster. That may just be the stigma of all Terminator sequels beyond T2 being terrible but nonetheless a bad showing. Most of that bad taste is washed away with her turn as Lou. Its obvious that she delved down deep for this one. Her physical acting and transformation, along with her total switch flip to this ungainly, movement, befuddled mannerisms, and a pure joy that shone through. She really transformed and made this character come to life. Danaerys was gone, and Lou was born and there was nothing you couldn’t love about her.
Sam Clafin: Has a good track record as being one of the only consistently good parts of the Hunger Games franchise. His character and portrayal of Finnick Odair was well rounded complex and enjoyable. Words I don’t use often in reference to that franchise. How funny it was that in the midst of me drinking in his charisma, charm, wit and brashness, I thought, wow this guy should be the new James Bond! He’s got all the characteristics they claim to be looking for but with those classic bond traits of personality….and boom a reference to 007 pops right up not 2 minutes after I had the thought. Emilia Clarke was great, but this guy is phenomenal. I believed him. Thats tough to find these days. He put so much power into his performance with only the ability to speak and never move anything but his eyes and mouth. His connection to the character and to Emilia was a pleasure to behold. Its rare someone nails that tough of a task.
The two of them get some top notch help from a grade A supporting cast including the ever steady character actor extraordinaire, Janet McTeer who plays Will’s mother, a Game of Thrones reunion (though Emilia’s and his character never met on the show) Tywin Lanister himself, Charles Dance plays Will’s father. That is a strong pairing that played their roles as broken parents that are trying to do the best for their son in their own ways which often conflict. Then there’s Downton Abbey’s own, Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) who takes up the mantel of Lou’s father, well meaning and good hearted but looks down on Lou most of the way through even when she basically becomes the top provider. Its a small sample but that relationship really shows you the how Lou was shaped to be how she is. Finally a small pop in role from Jenna Coleman of Dr. Who fame, playing Lou’s sister, the only one that has always seen the potential in her and encouraged her to find herself. As you see from the descriptions I’ve layed forth, its very paint by numbers but somehow, the film doesn’t get bogged down by that. Its all about the material, not the formula.
The subject matter plays the antagonist here. The question of does finding something to live for trump bad quality of life regardless of finding said thing. A powerful and largely unexplored topic of assisted suicide along with its moral and practical wrongs and rights. Nothing is thrown in your face, never does it advocate or denigrate either side of the argument, but the conversation is had. Sides are taken and ultimately the conclusion for this particular story is that a person’s life is their own to choose…be that living it, or losing it. That journey of self discovery plays out for the two leads vastly differently. Will is a man that knew the joys of life and had them taken from him in his prime. He finds joy in the quirkiness of Lou discovering that same world as she tries to keep him in high spirits. She’s been sheltered and held down in her life and watching her character grow emboldened but keep that grounded core, you begin to understand where this story is leading, the tragedy that’s to come, but the injection of life that outshines it.
I hold a belief that a truly good film needs 3 key scenes that get you where you wanna be as a viewer. Scenes that definitively show you the evolution of characters you care about from start to middle to finish. This film gives us 5. I don’t like to spoil if I don’t have to so I’ll be general in my description.
The first is the initial meeting between Lou and Will. It doesn’t get more tone setting than this. The tension is both broken and created anew in one gut busting scene.
The Wedding Dance is a banter filled joy ride that you don’t think can get any better until…
Lou’s birthday dinner is so fun. Tights and advice. Can’t say more, just go soak it in!
The Beach scene. Tiki torches, love in the air, and heartbreak lurking. You’ll go from vivid elation to dreary and teary in the blink of an eye with magical performances from Clarke and Clafin.
Finally…there’s the ending…not so much the true ending, but you’ll know it when you see it. Closure is important, but its not always the closure we seek.
Go out and watch this movie. I constantly urge that people get out and support good films. Don’t just go see the blockbusters. Good movies like this are so hard to find because they don’t get the recognition from audiences they deserve despite critical acclaim. This is a definite gotta watch. Just check it out. Its got a bunch of laughs, some food for thought and feels for days. I’m a man that loves a good romance movie and this…this is the Best romance with comedy that i’ve seen in some time.