Me Before You has the potential to be a really good movie, if only it didn’t feel so yucky throughout.
Adapted for the screen by Jojo Moyes and based on her own novel, the movie involves a caregiver who takes on a 6-month job watching over a rich, disabled man. After a rocky start, the caregiver, Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke – that’s a funny coincidence), starts to fall for the rich, disabled man, Will (Sam Claflin), but finds out that the job is only 6-months long for a very dark reason. The movie takes place in a small, British town, and Will even owns a castle. It’s perfect material for a cute, manipulating little film.
And for a while, Me Before You is very cute. That’s before it becomes clear how gross the film is. The character of Will is less of a person and more of a plot device. Lou is constantly described as having a lot of potential, but doesn’t have a lot of drive to look outside her small town. She must use Will as a stepping stone in order to discover that she’s worth more than she originally thought.
Meanwhile, Will’s disability has no solution, and if doesn’t see any purpose to live if he’s unable to walk. It’s simultaneously inspiration porn and fear-mongering, leaving it to feel pretty ableist. This is especially disappointing because there are so few movies about people with disabilities – especially in a romantic context. Now, as an able-bodied person, I don’t really have a huge right to complain or get angry. All I can say is that it left me feeling a little uneasy about the film. However, if you want to read or watch something by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, click here.
This is all especially frustrating because Me Before You has what it takes to be a good film, if it weren’t for its underlying concept. Although she has a main role on Game of Thrones (which I haven’t seEN I’M SORRY), Clarke’s experience on film has been somewhat limited, though she is endlessly fun to watch. Her face is so vivid and she is so animated throughout the film that it doesn’t matter that her character is established as a girl with quirky clothes and an endlessly positive attitude.
Speaking of the costume design for just a moment, it is crazy cool. If Lou is defined by her clothes, at least the clothes are stylish. They are colorful and pretty and there are so many different combinations. A small sequence featuring all of her different outfits would normally seem unnecessary, but here it’s actually somewhat fun.
Also on the plus side, director Thea Sharrock nails the energy of a good romantic-comedy. The editing, the musical interludes, the reaction shots – it’s all so good. The movie might be manipulative, but if it wasn’t so offensive, I’d love it. Occasionally a location would seem a little too green screened, but for the most part the movie is very well put together.
The problem here really is all about the core concept. While the right to choose is a good thing, the film makes Will out to be a hurt little bird who will never recover. Everything done after the beat sheet was created is fine, but the movie just can’t redeem itself. It might be fun to watch if you don’t think too hard, but once you leave the theatre things get a little unsettling.