Problematic direction aside, Me Before You boasts strong chemistry that elevates it to an above average tearjerker.
Directed by Thea Sharrock
Looking for attractive actors with strong chemistry falling in love in a star crossed fantasy? Then go out and see this film, it has all of that. But if you were expecting Me Before You to treat its controversial issue with any semblance of depth or respect, you will likely be disappointed by how frustratingly shallow it all is. Make no mistake. This is a rom-com, through and through.
Emilia Clarke, hot off her Game of Thrones fame plays Lou Clark. An infectiously bubbly, well mannered girl down on her luck and looking for a job. She’s the type of girl parents would love for their son, and lo and behold, she chances upon Will Traynor’s ad for a caretaker. And of course, he is every bit as rich, handsome and smart as you would expect from a rom com fantasy. There is only one catch, Will Traynor is disabled, and has already decided to die.
Euthanasia and disability are fascinating topics because of how controversial, hotly debated and personal it is, but this film doesn’t bother to explore any of it. It is mentioned only briefly early on that Will has decided to kill himself, which sets Lou on a mission to convince Will that life is worth living. The rest of the film is simply a meet cute relationship between our star crossed lovers, before the rug is predictably swept up in the form of an ultimatum which i will not spoil.
Suffice to say that it is as unsatisfying as it is insulting as to how the ending attempts to wring as much emotion in typical romantic comedy fashion, while reducing euthanasia to a sub plot point. Its borderline laughable given the real world issues pertaining euthanasia, and between the soft rock ballads and impossibly fantastical scenarios, one begins to wonder whether the story needed the disability angle at all since it is so undeveloped. More puzzling are the generic subplots the movie has. I mean honestly, did we really need Neville Longbottom as the jealous boyfriend here?
Thankfully, the lead actors are more than up for the task, boasting tremendous chemistry and charm. Clarke is affable as the big hearted Lou, but the real surprise comes from Sam Claflin as the reserved and initially bitter Will. He handles what little material he has with ease and conviction, lending authenticity to the otherwise contrived plot. If anything else, the film is worth seeing alone for how well Clarke and Claflin work off one another, as their relationship develops quite nicely without being overtly saccharine.
Its a shame then that the film decided to dip its toes into controversial issues without having the backbone to tackle it. Given better writing and direction, Me Before You could have been a classic given its strong cast and chemistry. Unfortunately it wades too far out into generic conventions, and eschews its far more interesting themes in favour of mainstream appeal.