Me Before You is a British romantic drama starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin that deals with themes such as disability and dying with dignity.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Jojo Moyes, the original author, Me Before You sees Clarke play Louisa, a bubbly 20-something who loses her job at a cute tea house in the picturesque British country town where she lives. Desperate to help her parents make ends meet, Louisa accepts a job as a carer for Will Trainor (Sam Claflin), a quadriplegic banker who was hit by a motorcycle and consigned to living in a wheelchair.
Will despises his disability and rejects Louisa's attempts to care for him; his parents, Camilla (Janet McTeer) and Steven (Charles Dance) hope that Louisa's presence will have a positive impact and steer Will away from making the ultimate decision; to die on his own terms at a clinic in Switzerland.
The tone is comparable to the slew of drippy Nicholas Sparks' adaptations that are propelled into cinemas on an annual basis, except with a distinctly more British vibe underscoring everything. There are plenty of hefty emotional moments conveyed through montage (Ed Sheeran could live off the royalties from just this film alone to be honest) and the screenplay does feel simplistic and predictable at times, but Moyes' subtle humour and levity make Me Before You a better than average romantic drama.
Even in the darker moments, Moyes is able to portray depth and complexity through her even-handed approach to heavy themes and human emotion and wit. I'm told that the screenplay has cut some rather important subplots and character details, particularly concerning Louisa's past, but in my opinion these exclusions only serve to make the film more focused and straightforward for a broader audience. Sure, it means certain characters lack depth - but the beauty of reading a book is that you can afford to inject added information.
The ending is where things get heavy. Is Will making the right choice? Is it selfish for Louisa and Will's parents to hang onto him? Why can't Will accept his disability and show strength in the face of adversity? The film doesn't shy away from dealing with some very heavy themes and ideas, which should be commended rather than criticised. Whether or not you agree with Will's final decision, Me Before You takes a tricky topic where there is no right answer and presents a challenging and thought-provoking stance. It won't sit right with everyone - but I wouldn't be satisfied if it did.
Clarke gives a great performance as Louisa, particularly as her effervescent and quirky persona is so far removed from what we know her from; namely badass queens and soldiers in Game of Thrones or Terminator. Her eyebrows might do 70% of the work (seriously, they have a life of their own!), but it was nice to see Clarke sample something different and step outside of her stoic, fierce leader typecasting. Claflin is brilliant also; Will undergoes remarkable growth throughout the film and Claflin is often restricted to the minutest of facial movements to convey emotions or conflict.
The Verdict: 7/10
Me Before You is destined to divide audiences; those who are affronted by the end, those who are saddened by the resemblance to the book and those who are happy to respect the grace with which the film tackles a no-win topic. Clarke and Claflin are compelling; the screenplay slightly less so.
Me Before You is in cinemas across Australia now