Director Thea Sharrock
Starring Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Brendan Coyle
Released 10th October 2016
Given the reputation of the Me Before You, there shouldn’t have been a dry eye in the house. But the eyes were mine and they were totally dry. For a serial blubber like me, that’s quite an achievement. Perhaps I was all cried out after the emotional offerings at this year’s LFF. Or perhaps it just didn’t tug at my heart strings. I’m inclined towards the latter.
This is based on the romantic best seller by Jo Jo Moyes, who also wrote the script. Louisa (Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) loses her job and, with money tight at home, has to take whatever she can get. It turns out to be a well-paid job looking after Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), son of the wealthy local landowners and confined to a wheelchair following an accident. He’s a difficult patient, having all but given up, and she’s one in a long line of carers, but her determination to show him that life is worth living brings a smile back to his face. But he’s not going back on one crucial decision.
Since the film was released earlier in the year and attracted a lot of publicity, I’m not going to worry about spoilers. The media attention was sparked by the euthanasia part of the storyline, with Will deciding to end his own life in Switzerland. It caused some public upset, and it upsets somebody in the film, not just Louisa – by that stage, she and Will have fallen for each other – but her Mum. But all she has to say on the subject is that “it’s wrong”. And that’s about as deep as the film gets on the subject. Or, indeed, anything to do with the quality of life for somebody with a disability, paraplegic or otherwise.
And it’s that superficiality that’s the problem for me. That, plus the same issue that I had with Still Alice. The family has pots of money and can afford very best care available. Will lives in a specially adapted annex at the family home, he has a professional nurse as well and there’s a converted people carrier so that he can be driven around. None of that is available to many in with his disability, so somebody with a lesser income would have a much harder time. But, then, I’m talking about another film. In truth the disability and euthanasia themes are just the mechanic for delivering a romance between two unlikely lovers. It goes without saying, of course, that Will is handsome, intelligent and witty – once he gets over his cynicism and has his beard shaved off to reveal those good looks, of course.
It’s soap for the big screen. In the days before mass market TV, people went to the cinema for their entertainment, so you had big, lush romantic melodramas instead – the soap of their day but, in some cases at least, superior soap. Think Now Voyager, or David Lean’s Brief Encounter. Me Before You is just bog standard soap. Glossy, admittedly, thanks to the wealth of the Traynor family, but still soap.
As for the performances, Emilia Clarke certainly isn’t guilty of being typecast. Sarah Connor from the risible Terminator:Genisys is now a 21st century Pollyanna in child-like clothes, but she’s fresh faced enough to get away with it. Sam Claflin is yet another buttoned up posh Englishman hiding his feelings but eventually melting for the right woman: he did it at the LFF last week in Their Finest, only there he had a moustache and specs. The object of his affection was Gemma Arterton, not unlike Clarke to look at, so it seems that he’s being allocated a type – and he’s the one that’s getting typecast. So it’s left to a trio of experienced actors to bring some character depth to the story. Charles Dance and Janet McTeer as Claflin’s protective parents and Downton Abbey’s Brendan Coyle as Louisa’s likeable dad all deliver and give the action some credibility.
But, whichever way you look at it, the film is superficial and if it can’t raise a tear out of me, then it’s definitely missing something. It didn’t move me at all – except to sigh with relief when it was over.
Me Before You was released on DVD on 10th October and reviewed on Talking Pictures on 13th October.