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Movie Review: Me Before You
Me Before You
Release Date: 6/3/2016
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 110 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and some suggestive material.
Director: Thea Sharrock
Writer: Jojo Moyes, based on her novel
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, Brendan Coyle, Jenna Coleman, Matthew Lewis
Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke and The Hunger Games' Sam Claflin play lovers in the new tearjerker Me Before You, an adaptation of Jojo Moyes' best-selling novel from 2012 of the same name. The movie quickly introduces us to chipper 26-year-old Louisa Clark (Clarke). Louisa, or "Lou" for short, lives with her extended family in a small English town and helps them pay the rent. Out of a job after the closing of the bakery she works at, the klutzy Lou goes to the employment agency and lands the position of being a caregiver.
Lou heads to the mansion of her new employers, the Traynor family, where she learns from the heads of the household (Charles Dance and Janet McTeer) that she has been hired to be a paid companion for their 31-year-old son, Will (Claflin). Two years earlier, Will was hit by a motorbike while crossing a street and left paralyzed from the incident. Lou is to do none of the most daunting tasks of taking care of a quadriplegic, as a nurse tends to his daily bathing and clothing rituals, but to provide companionship for the closed off man. After an awkward beginning, Lou and Will gradually come to appreciate each other's company. A curve ball is thrown when Lou learns that Will plans to commit suicide at a facility in Switzerland in six months and that she was hired to show him that life is still worth living.
A contemporary spin on Beauty and the Beast mixed with The Bucket List, Me Before You will offer no surprises for anyone who has seen either a romance or a "disease" movie before. But the stars keep it agreeable even when Moyes (adapting her novel) allows the story to take a turn for the sentimental. Clarke, a long way removed from Game of Thrones, threatens to overdue Lou's quirky disposition early in the proceedings, but her transformation caused by her new job lets her display a wider array of emotions. Confined by the physical limitations of the character, Claflin plays Will as a man haunted by the loss of the life he had. Actors in secondary roles in this British production include Charles Dance and Janet McTeer as Will's suffering parents and Matthew Lewis (Neville from Harry Potter all grown up) as Lou's self-absorbed boyfriend.
Critical moviegoers will take issue with Me Before You's treatment of Will's medical diagnosis. Moyes and first-time director Thea Sharrock gloss over the topic of assisted suicide, departing with a message that will leave more sensitive patrons with a bitter aftertaste. It is a glaring misstep in a film that chooses to be as exuberant as its protagonist for the first two-thirds of its 110-minute running time. The Fault in Our Stars was more audacious in its representation of living with cancer than this is of living as a quadriplegic.
Fans of tearjerkers and the novel are unlikely to be disappointed by Me Before You (tissue boxes were handed out to the audience before the advance screening). Despite the hankie-ready premise (and a forced soundtrack including songs by Imagine Dragons and Ed Sheeran), the tone is closer to About Time than it is to the saccharine products of Nicholas Sparks. Humor nicely counterbalances the inevitable dramatic twists, while Clarke and Claflin are pleasant company. The cynical need not bother. But anyone looking for a date flick or a good cry will find this to be a satisfying manner in which to spend a summer day.