ME BEFORE YOU (USA/12A/110mins)
Directed by Thea Sharrock. Starring Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, Matthew Lewis, Jenna Coleman.
THE PLOT: When Lou (Emilia Clarke) is let go from her job at a café in a small town, she lands a job with a rich family, looking after a young man who was paralysed in a road accident. Over time, the two form a bond, but their relationship is cruelly cut short.
THE VERDICT: ‘Me Before You’ is based on the bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes, and tries to take a different look at a romantic drama, by making the lead truly brooding and tortured, but in doing so, raises some problematic themes.
It is easy to see why Emilia Clarke would want to take on the role of Lou – a bubbly, bright and enthusiastic character – after playing Daenerys in Game of Thrones for so long. Clarke does well enough with the character, but is severely limited in what she is actually allowed to do, since Lou is written to be so darn chirpy all the time. Sam Claflin takes on the role of Will, a young man paralysed in an accident, and who is struggling to come to terms with the change to his life. Again, Claflin does OK in the role, but other than being a frosty snob who gradually begins to thaw, Will is not a character with much depth. The rest of the cast features Jenna Coleman – who is terribly underused, but her chemistry with Clarke is sweet – Matthew Lewis, Charles Dance and Janet McTeer.
Jojo Moyes adapted her own novel for the screen, and while the first two acts of the film are sweet and light, the characters are underdeveloped and never given a chance to be much more than they are on the surface. The working class girl’s passion only being clothes is a worrisome one, as is the snobbish young man’s tendency to show her foreign language films and only use their original titles, implying that she is an idiot. The screenplay follows familiar tropes and feels trite and familiar, with the third act’s commentary on living life to the fullest while seeking to end it all is problematic to say the least.
As director, Thea Sharrock does fine, but she is fighting a troublesome screenplay and underdeveloped characters. There are times when the chemistry between the two leads is engaging, but when the conversation quickly switches back to shoes, this is lost. The pacing of the film is rather messy, with time passing in a way only the film seems to understand, and characters dropping in and out of the tale seemingly at random.
In all, ‘Me Before You’ is problematic. The performances are fine, but the characters are underdeveloped, the pacing messy and while the film tries to have a warm message, the way it gets there is troublesome and rather reductive. Claflin and Clarke deserved better.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Me Before You
Review by Brogen Hayes
2.0Trite & problematic
  • filmbuff2011

    Me Before You is one of those heartfelt romantic weepies that feels less like a cynical exercise in audience manipulation and more of a good-natured love story between two seemingly mismatched characters. It’s all the better for it.

    William (Sam Claflin) used to have an adventurous, action-packed life with a drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend. Then everything came to a shuddering halt when a motorbike ran into him. Paralysed from the neck down, he’s now confined to a wheelchair. Watched over by his male nurse Nathan (Stephen Peacocke) and his parents Steven (Charles Dance) and Camilla (Janet McTeer), he’s losing the will to live after two years locked inside his body. That is, until a ray of sunshine enters his life in the form of the cutesy Louisa (Emilia Clarke). She’s taken up a job as a home carer to look after William’s mental health and keep him upbeat. His parents couldn’t have picked a better candidate: Louisa has a very colourful wardrobe and a quirky dress sense. She’s also unflappingly chirpy, but not in an annoying way. Even if he refers to her by her surname. She slowly opens up Will’s shut-up heart to the the fact that his mind is still sharp and that he can still enjoy some aspects of life. He opens up her mind to the wonders of French cinema. The two form a platonic bond that is unbreakable… or is it?

    Adapted by Jojo Moyes from her novel and directed by debut director Thea Sharrock, Me Before You recalls the likes of The Intouchables, a French film that William would no doubt approve him (kudos for his admiration for the superb Of Gods And Men). It’s a relatively simple film that boils down to a story between two characters who exist in a symbiotic relationship, albeit a platonic one.There’s a moment early on when William tells Louisa that it’s her duty to live her life as fully as possible. He may not subscribe to his own theories, but she teaches him to. There’s a bracing honesty to it, which feels gradual and increasing in intensity. There’s a warm sense of humour about it, which is essential given the more grim elements of the story. However, there’s more light than dark here.

    Given such wonderfully-written characters, the film succeeds or fails on the performances and chemistry of the two leads. No need to worry here – Claflin and Clarke are like dynamite together. They spark off each other brilliantly with no signs of ‘acting’ going on here – true acting is invisible, so we just accept the characters for who they are, flaws and all. Clarke is delightful, setting aside the Mother of Dragons for an altogether different role which shows a lot of range. She could be the next Reese Witherspoon if she wants to be. A strong supporting cast round out an altogether satisfying film. There’s a depth of emotion and warmth of humour here which puts most romcoms to shame. Highly recommended, so it gets four hankies out of five from this reviewer. ****

  • emerb

    “Me Before You” is a British chick-lit adaptation of the 2012 best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes. Directed by Thea Sharrock, it brings to mind the Nicholas Sparks repertoire of movies as it is another charming but soppy romantic weepie starring Emilia Clarke as the caregiver of a quadriplegic, played by Sam Clafin.

    Emilia Clarke plays Louisa, a 26 year old shop girl who works in a cafe in a picture-perfect English town. She brightens up the day for everybody with her smiles and cheerful good nature, along with her quirky fashion sense of style and colour. She is the breadwinner for her family so when the shop shuts, she is very thankful to get a job as care giver and principal companion to Will Traynor, a wealthy young London business man who was left paralyzed from the neck down in a traffic accident two years earlier. Will lives with his parents in a beautiful, historic county house but he remains confined to a wheelchair. When he is introduced to Lou, he is rude and unwelcoming. She fears his cold, hostile
    and sarcastic manner. He refuses to display any sense of emotion or feeling. At least the kindly nurse Nathan (Stephen Peacocke) is on hand to help her out with the more difficult aspects of his care. Slowly, as the days pass, Lou softens Will and a bond develops between them, much to the disgust of Louisa’s triathlon-obsessed, self-absorbed boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis). When Lou sees a jagged scar on Will’s arm, she is alarmed that he attempted to kill himself and so makes it her mission to get him to fall in love with living again and cancel the assisted suicide appointment that she learns he has made in Switzerland, to end his life. Louisa takes him on a whirlwind of adventures: horse racing, dancing, a wedding and even a visit to her family. Her sincerity and enthusiasm wins the heart of Will but even with her by his side, he doesn’t want to be saved.

    “Me Before You” doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The movie follows the expected formula and features every cliché you might expect but that doesn’t make it any less appealing or effective. If you choose to see this movie then you know what you’re in for and for me, I enjoyed every single minute. It’s easy to be cold and cynical, dismissing these movies but they are popular and successful. For me, nothing beats a straightforward plot and the pleasure of a good old cry at the cinema. While “Me Before You” might not rise to classic status, it bears all
    the hallmarks of your typical glossy tearjerker and should amply satisfy fans of the novel and those who enjoyed “The Fault In Our Stars”, “The Notebook” et al. One of the best features which made it memorable for me was the winning performances. The chemistry between the two leads is credible and there are some fine supporting turns, particularly from Will’s parents, played to perfection by Janet McTeer and Charles Dance. I also loved the fashion, Louisa’s wardrobe is an ever-changing, multi-coloured, quirky delight and between her bumble bee striped tights, sparkly woollen jumpers and cute little hats – she was quite simply adorable. Just as Will was falling for her, I was too! With their charm and good looks, both Clarke and Clafin give the movie heart and charm. Go see it and bring your tissues!