Jojo Moyes’ tear-jerker book Me Before You finally hit the big screen and to my dismay, it wasn’t much of a sob fest.
The plot revolves around protagonist Lou Clark, a 26-year-old small town girl. Portrayed by the Mother of Dragons, Emilia Clarke, Lou is a dim girl whose only redeeming quality is her unwavering cheerfulness. Upon being let go from her waitressing job, Lou is employed by the rich family Traynors who live in an actual castle, to essentially cheer up their depressed quadriplegic son Will (Sam Claflin) who was hit by a motorcycle rendering him paralyzed from the neck down.
The film’s major pitfall is its weak plot development, basically hinging on a typical romantic movie formula. There’s the naive girl and the condescending guy who later find themselves a perfect fit. Insert a third character, the jerk boyfriend who is just obviously wrong for her. Throw in the voice of conscience (two voices in this case--Lou’s father and her sister), provide a matter of life-and-death dilemma, and you’ve got yourself a movie.
Me Before You took the safe route in telling a very complex story. It could’ve been more compelling if it did not just rely on a straight-forward and predictable storyline progression. Comparing to The Fault in Our Stars, the adverse effects of cancer had been elaborately shown; whereas in this film, Will’s paralysis was tackled lightly. It lacks transparency as its realities are only tiptoed around with—limited to the fact that he simply has no mobility.
Even worse, the screenplay omitted a dark subplot, Lou’s sexual assault experience, which in my opinion could have given more depth to her character. Additionally, Will’s character is also underdeveloped as he is only viewed as a snobbish and selfish rich bachelor. Controversy also lies on Will’s life choice which was again treated in passing, almost like it’s a norm or a logical thing for a person to do. Because of these, there is a disconnect with these two major roles that hinders the viewers from deeply understanding the motivations behind their actions.
Despite these flaws, the strength of the film lies on the undeniable chemistry between Lou and Will brought to life by Clarke and Claflin. Their relationship was crafted in such a way it both allowed them to grow individually and as a couple. Their characters’ self-actualization had been established as a two-way street with both of them aware and accepting of how much they affect each other.
Somehow it reminds me of a modern Beauty and the Beast sans the happily ever after, although I think this is in fact the film’s greatest feat. It depicts a kind of love unusual to us. It demonstrates that we cannot change the people we care for, and that the most we can do is to just love them as they are.
Ultimately, there is love in letting go.
110 minutes | Drama, Romance | June 3, 2016 (USA)
Watch the trailer below!