Tweetable Takeaway: Predictable, but reliable, #MeBeforeYou is a competent romantic drama. Tweet
Watching films in which sadness is the expected emotional reaction is a strange ritual. Action movies provide an adrenaline rush, which makes sense, and comedy causes us to laugh. Horror films, if they’re doing their job right, will give us a thrill. But ME BEFORE YOU rests soundly in the category of movies that will inspire those who love it to proudly proclaim how many tissues they went through. And as far as tearjerkers go, Me Before You manages to keep itself from sinking too far into melodrama or feeling blatantly emotionally manipulative, approaching the line of corniness without ever actually crossing it. Part of that can be attributed to the performances by Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke.
The movie opens with businessman Will Traynor (Claflin) getting hit by a motorcycle and becoming a quadriplegic. Meanwhile, bubbly café worker Lou Clark (Clarke) gets laid off and must find a new job. She finds an opportunity in taking care of Will. Will’s mom, Camilla (Janet McTeer), has gone through several caretakers for Will and after what appears to be a disastrous interview with Lou, hires her on the spot. Camilla’s main motivation in hiring Lou appears to be Lou’s bottomless optimism and cheerfulness. By contrast, Will is the definition of despondence. Despite every bouncy effort, he continually rejects Lou’s attempts to cheer him up, preferring to play metal music at full volume alone in his room. Claflin’s performance is precise, his tongue becomes a razor, articulating every insult he throws at Lou.
And right when his character verges on losing all sympathy from the audience, he begins to warm up. As predictable as it is from the beginning, the transition is enjoyable to watch nonetheless. At times, Clarke’s incessant emoting borders on over-the-top. Even so, one has to admire her commitment to the exuberant performance. There’s never any doubt that Clarke is fully embodying her character, and if that character happens to be an unbelievably joyful one, then we believe it as well. She’s also a character we can root for, one who commits to her goals and we see how much they mean to her. Once she sets her mind to cheering Will up and providing him with everything possible, and even what doesn’t seem possible, it’s easy to get on board with her.
It’s only unfortunate that so much of Me Before You is predictable. When a young, attractive Emilia Clarke is spending lots of time with a young, attractive Sam Claflin, it’s pretty easy to guess where their relationship is headed. And if Lou has a boyfriend? No problem. As soon as we meet Lou’s dolt of a boyfriend, Patrick (Matthew Lewis), we know how easy it will be for Lou to decide between him and Will. The plot still goes down easy, even if it doesn’t always surprise. That said, the ending certainly isn’t one that we’d expect from a romantic drama. If the movie packs in at least one unexpected development, its the third act twist. Those looking to prevent the film being spoiled would do well to avoid researching the book’s sequel, in which the development of the relationship between Lou and Will is effectively revealed.
Me Before You will satisfy those looking for a romantic drama that will likely result in a couple dozen tears being squeezed out. There’s nothing terrifically memorable about the film besides its ending, but it’s also completely watchable. Although Will’s decision brought about by his disability has stirred some controversy, the movie never tries to make the cast that all disabled people feel the same as Will. His thoughts and feelings are always solely his character’s, and a single character isn’t reflective of all disabled people. Fans of the genre will enjoy Me Before You – just remember to pack a few tissues.
I give Me Before You 3 Kleenex boxes out of 5.
Score: 3 out of 5
Wil Loper | Contributor