Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Thea Sharrock
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Jenna Coleman, Matthew Lewis, Vanessa Kirby, Stephen Peacocke, Brendan Coyle
Release Date: June 3rd, 2016
For those looking for a romantic drama this summer, Me Before You might just be the movie for you. It is packed with sentimental moments and a heartbreaking story that never lets up until the credits roll. The movie does offer several mainstay elements of the genre– read: unnecessary cliches– but it’s often able to overcome those flaws with a painful portrayal of a paralyzed man who used to be a tremendous athlete.
Will Traynor (Sam Chaflin) lives his youthful life as an adventure-loving ladies’ man who loves waking up in the morning (oftentimes with a beautiful woman beside him). Then tragedy strikes. A motorcycle accident paralyzes the once-boisterous young man. Confined to a wheelchair, Will becomes bitter and angry towards everyone around him.
To help him overcome that persistent pessimism, his parents hire a optimistic girl named Louisa (Emilia Clark) to become his friend and confidant.
For the first forty minutes, the proceedings are extremely predictable. Will angrily rejects forming a friendship with Lou. Lou persists. Will doesn’t want to talk to her. Lou keeps trying. Will is mean. Lou is hopeful. It’s a pattern that goes on for far too long here and it’s obvious where the story is headed.
Once Will overcomes his initial trepidations, the story takes a more positive and hopeful turn. At some point, he starts acting like a real adult and the two adults develop a kinship with each other. Admittedly, Lou has a boyfriend (Matthew Lewis) but he seems too distracted in his own vanity to notice Lou developing something special with Will.
The drama then really works well as it focuses in on their budding romance and what that means for both lead characters. Will’s father Stephen (Charles Dance), during the run-up to an outing between Will and Louisa, notes that “Will needs to be able to feel like a man” and that’s a concept (Will wants to feel “normal” again) that this drama captures well.
Will’s struggle to continue his free-spirited lifestyle continually comes in conflict with the reality that his paralysis prevents him from surviving on his own.
Directed by Thea Sharrock and written by Jojo Moyes (who wrote the novel the film is adapted from), there’s a lot to like in this romantic drama. From the stunning depiction of Will and Louisa’s vacations together to a beautiful dance sequence at a wedding to the difficult conversations about Will’s condition, the drama never loses itself in fluffy romance. Also, there’s no corny side plot about Will being able to resume his former life.
That life has been left behind and the feature honestly shows how Will’s love for adventure tortures him when he can no longer be the man he once was.
The feature also notably never lets the viewer forget that Will is, even at his happiest, still a pained soul. “You can only help someone who actually wants to be helped,” his ex-girlfriend notes.
The third act of the drama clearly has its controversial moments and the conclusion does feel a bit unearned considering the earlier proceedings. That being said, there’s enough positive charm about Me Before You to recommend it.
Review by: John Hanlon