Hot Take: If your idea of entertainment is listening to a silent crowd of teenage girls sobbing, Me Before You is can’t miss! If not, it’s still pretty good. Emilia Clarke = Pure Delight.
Admittedly, I’m only vaguely familiar with Emilia Clarke. I barely remember Terminator: Genisys (other than her poor chemistry with Jai Courtney) and have never seen an episode of Game of Thrones. After seeing the Me Before You trailer back in February, I was tempted to binge watch the show just to see if Clarke was as magnificent as she appeared in the original trailer for this film but I didn’t want to set my already unrealistic expectations for this movie any higher.
To be fair, Me Before You had very little chance of living up to the lofty expectations I had set for it. By the end, I expected to be moved to tears and wanting to shamefully tell everyone about my emotional breakdown at the theater. (It never happened… although there were some misty-eyed moments.) The film was more moving in trailer form, actually. That’s not a complete knock on this compelling but manipulative and unscrupulous tale. (It’s fair to call a movie unscrupulous when it features a quadriplegic with noticeable wrist scars from an apparent suicide attempt, isn’t it? I think so.)
Well, there was one thing that lived up and maybe exceeded expectations: Emilia Clarke. Clarke was delightful to watch as Louisa Clark, a suddenly unemployed 26 year-old whose desperation for a job turns her into a caregiver for the quadriplegic son of a wealthy family in Clark’s town. The son, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) suffers a terrible accident while walking to work in the rain in the films opening. (Again, there’s that unscrupulous nature of the film to show Traynor being scolded for even thinking of riding his bike to work and then getting hit by a bike on his jaunt through the torrential downpour. Where’s Alanis Morissette when you need her?) Despite every attempt by Will to push her away, Clark is being counted on too much by her family to quit. Eventually, the two form a bond.
Once Louisa overhears an argument between Will’s parents about his plan to fly to Switzerland to be euthanized, it becomes her mission (with the full consent and monetary support of Will’s parents) to will Will back to having the will to live. (Look, don’t blame me for that awful pun. I’ve been waiting to write that for nearly a day and I realize now it’s nowhere near as good as when I thought it up but it’s there and it’s staying and there’s nothing you or I or anyone can do about it.)
As the two embark on a number of “bucket list” adventures, it’s the ones involving spending time with Louisa that seemingly put a roll in his wheelchair. (Hey, if the movie is going to be unscrupulous, so is this review!) Much to the chagrin of Louisa’s boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis) and delight of her family and Will’s family, the two get along as if they are falling for each other (Does anyone notice she still has a boyfriend this whole time other than her boyfriend? Is it too much to remind everyone again of the unscrupulous lengths this film goes to tell a story?) and her caregiving barely resembles a 9-5 job.
In the end, the story itself is of little consequence. This is Clarke’s moment as she shines — eyebrows and all — in her role. This isn’t a career-defining performance as much as it is a breakout and glimpse of more to come from her. It also brings about the possibility that her role as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones isn’t the career-defining moment, either. The film’s novel companion from which it was adapted has a sequel — After You — and with the level of success the movie looks to be headed toward at the box office, it would only be a logical next step for After You to also get the big screen treatment but only if Clarke were on board.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Personality Goes A Long Way
What this film lacks in any real depth, it makes up for in two performances packed with personality. Having already spoken at lengthy about Clarke, a nod of approval has to be directed toward her co-star Sam Claflin who plays off of Clarke well. Unlike her previous big screen collaboration, this one works.
- Will’s Parents
The most dramatic moments of the film have to be between the parents of Will played by Janet McTeer and Charles Dance. The two struggle with the situation presented to them. It obviously takes a toll on their relationship as well as the one with their son. The portrayal helps propel this aspect of the story forward convincingly and makes it more than a one-dimensional Nicholas Sparks knock-off.
- Audience Friendly (All Audiences)
Despite it’s propensity for jerking all of the tears, Me Before You can play for any audience. It’s family friendly enough to be something an entire family could see. Sure, the young boys might complain but they’re going to make you watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows so they can find their way through this and pretend they didn’t like it.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
Conveniently, the plot moves with a direct map toward your emotions. The contrived twists and turns are well timed and the ups are quickly paired with the downs. It’s all a little too convenient and we know what you’re doing so knock it off. (Where’s my tissues?)
- You’re Going to Have to Ignore That
How a quadriplegic tried to kill himself by slitting his wrists is still one that I can’t stop getting hung up on. However, if you can get past that, you’ll have to ignore the disgusting looks Will gets in public for being in a wheelchair. You’ll probably have to find a way around a caregiver flooding her highly medicated patient with alcohol, too. Oh, and there’s that whole thing where Will’s parents flood a pretty unemployed girl with money to basically be a paid escort. Did I leave anything out? I’m sure I did as there’s enough to dig into here. (I’d still recommend it highly as Clarke is that good.)