Rating: C+… I… guess? The genre’s not really my thing.
Summary: A young caretaker’s bond with a paralyzed man.
It’s Valentine’s Day next week but Black Panther is also coming out, so naturally we are moving the traditional holiday up to properly celebrate Chadwick Boseman in his glory the whole week. Stay tuned! Not sure if you can tell, but this site isn’t privy to traditional romance dramas, romantic comedies, or Nicholas Sparks stuff. Personally, I’ve never been a kiss in the rain or apologies off a balcony kind of person, but I’ll do period romances for the production value. With the exception of Moulin Rouge!, Love, Actually, Titanic, and Eternal Sunshine, it’s just not my thing. But we’re trying here, so I did a fluff romance piece for the greater good.
“Me Before You? Really? What a downer, Kelly.” I AGREE, but I wasn’t looking for faith in love here. I chose Me Before You for several reasons. One, Neville Longbottom. Two, the opportunity to see Emilia Clarke not whining about dragons. Three, I read about the ending’s controversy and was curious (I’ll spoiler alert you). Four, Charles Dance, that golden lion! Me Before You is a slow burning romantic drama between Will (Sam Claflin), a young and wealthy man who was recently paralyzed, and his new caretaker Lou (Clarke). In her efforts to lift his spirits and outlooks on life, the two develop feelings for each other.
That’s not a spoiler. You know it happens. It’s the formula: meet, overcome whimsical differences, get each other introduced to hobbies, fall in love, break up, get back together, find the true meaning of love, dee do dee do di do. (In Sparks’ case, it’s much more sped up with a passage of time before the reunion bit.) Along with its artificial nature, the formula is one of the reasons I tend to stay away from the genre. It would have to be a really good group of actors or a renowned screenwriter to get me truly invested.
Unfortunately, aside from a few moments scattered throughout, Me Before You is not changing my mind about this romance genre anytime soon. Again, not my typical wheelhouse- if you’re into the cutesy jokes and clumsy situations, this is probably the right movie for you to watch. I found that while there are some genuinely poignant moments, particularly on Claflin’s part, Me Before You’s tone is extremely out of touch with its content and its characters. It comes off as very surface level and doesn’t quite drive the points home.
Spoiler Alerts starting now! Scroll past the picture to avoid!
The big deal in the movie is that Will chooses euthanasia, as he sees himself as a shell of who he used to be, haunting the people around him; the movie ends with a letter to Lou, expressing his desire to have her live to her life’s fullest for both their sakes. I understand why this might come off as “giving up” and/or the burden aspect it poses to some people and the lingering questions. Controversy is fine. If I can walk out with a few questions about the morals and message of the movie, that’s a bonus. My issue with the movie is more within its tone and presentation of the situation. Me Before You is extremely lighthearted and playful; even with the ending in sight, it doesn’t shift in tone and plays up Clarke’s cuteness and charm. While there are scenes of Will talking about how this is his decision and he’s weighed all the aspects, moments between Lou and Will’s parents, etc., Will still feels somewhat foreign as a character- we don’t see parts of his life without Lou or his assistant, so his pain and loneliness can only be assumed. While Lou understandably is the focus of the piece, being the main character and all, there’s a huge sense of lacking on Will’s side of things. Even their arguments about the decision are about Lou- about how she doesn’t want to live without him, how she’s changed his life, what will be missing from her life without him. A day in the life of Will without anyone or just an implication of what it’s like to be in his head would have evoked the proper emotions I needed for the ending.
End of Spoilers!
Above fault(s) aside, Me Before You is a very charming film, mostly due to Clarke’s weightlifting efforts. She’s engaging in her interviews and it was nice to see her play a more lighthearted, positive world outside Game of Thrones. I’m not her biggest fan and she may have over-acted in some parts here (specifically, eyebrow acting), but overall- I get why Will falls in love with Lou because she’s so vibrant and easygoing and that’s the important bit. While the acting in general isn’t anything to swoon at, it’s appropriate for what this movie is aiming to do. Claflin gets to play the more subtle role and makes some of the most cliched lines sound fine; he does a lot with the character of Will, perhaps more than Will deserved. The two have good chemistry together.
In the end, I get that both characters are making selfish decisions- after all, the title is Me Before You– and that’s fine and all but I do think there was more to dig on Will’s side instead of just his relationship with Lou. Ultimately, I just wish the film’s presentation had been worthy of the questions it touches upon instead of giving us the cutesy feel of an early 2000’s Kate Hudson rom-com.