Me Before You is the dramatic portrayal of what happens when life doesn’t turn out the way that you planned. The movie, adapted from Jojo Moyes’ novel of the same title, stars Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark, a small town girl with an infectious personality who is intent on finding a job to support her parents. Sam Claflin plays Will Traynor, a former big city businessman who has returned to his small town after being involved in an accident that has left him paralyzed from the neck down. The unlikely pair unites in their hometown in the English countryside in a movie that makes the audience consider if love does, in fact, conquer all.
The movie begins with Louisa losing her job at a café and looking for any type of work she can find to help support her parents, grandfather, sister, and nephew, who are all living under one roof. She answers a job posting from a well-off family seeking caretaking for Will, who was paralyzed after being hit by a motorcycle while crossing the street. Unbeknownst to the unfailingly upbeat Louisa, the family is looking for a caregiver after Will attempted suicide. Acerbic and sarcastic, Will challenges Louisa’s positivity with his biting comments and negative disposition. With a determined attitude, Louisa begins to soften Will’s tough façade and a friendship starts to form over shared stories and subtitled films. As the ice between the two melts, Louisa overhears a conversation between Will’s parents and learns that within six months, Will plans to visit an assisted suicide facility to end his life. With her quirky spirit and encouragement from her sister, Louisa decides that she will make the next six months of Will’s life so wonderful that perhaps he will reconsider his plans. Using the Traynor family’s resources, Louisa plans adventures to the horse track, the symphony, and a tropical vacation to show Will that life is worth living. Somewhere along the way, sparks begin to fly between Will and Louisa, but is it enough?
In some ways, the film seems to be making the point that life as a quadriplegic is not worth living for Will. If he cannot be who he once was, he does not want to live at all. This is a troubling message for some who are living with physical disabilities.
The film has been at the center of controversy for its portrayal of life with disabilities. Will’s life, which was once filled with extreme sports and motorcycling, is now relegated to an annex his parents have added to their home. On a basic level, Will explains that he can no longer dress or bathe himself and must rely on others to care for him. The film portrays many of the daily medical tasks that must be handled by a nurse named Nathan (Steve Peacocke) and outlines the numerous illnesses that Will suffers due to his body’s inability to fight infection. In some ways, the film seems to be making the point that life as a quadriplegic is not worth living for Will. If he cannot be who he once was, he does not want to live at all. This is a troubling message for some who are living with physical disabilities.
At the same time, many of the challenges that Will faces are almost portrayed as comedic moments, such as when his wheelchair gets stuck in the mud at the horse track and Louisa asks several passersby to pick up the wheelchair to get it back on solid ground. Will is clearly humiliated but the moment leaves the audience chuckling. The irreverence of some of the moments related to Will’s condition can feel a little demeaning to those who find themselves with similar conditions.
Despite the controversial message, Clarke and Claflin play their parts well. Louisa’s character develops from a naïve girl living within the confines of a few blocks to a more self-assured and thoughtful woman. All the while, she is still able to maintain her sweetness and her quirky personality. Claflin’s portrayal of Traynor shows the evolution of a biting and insufferable recluse to a caring and gentle companion. The evolution happens slowly enough to be believable, while thoughtfully enough to be convincing.
Me Before You is an thought-provoking portrayal of the relationship between a man and a woman whose unexpected circumstances have forced them to reconsider their own life plans and brought them together as an unlikely pair. While the subject matter is controversial, the actors’ portrayals of the characters are touching and heart-warming. It’s worth the watch, but be sure to take a handkerchief. The whole audience will be ugly-crying by the end of the movie.
Photo Credit: Sam Claflin 2014 by Ibsan73 is licensed under the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.
Photo Credit: Emilia Clarke sd8k by YARGI1903 is licensed under the Creative Commons 4.0 International license.