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September 11, 2016 | by  | in Film |
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Me Before You

★½

Director: Thea Sharrock

 

Aptly named “Me Before You,” this cinema adaption of Jojo Moyes 2012 novel follows Will Traynor’s journey as he learns to live with a disability. Bitter that he has to give up his adventurous lifestyle after a tragic accident, Will is reluctant to accept that his life is not bound to his wheelchair. Will (played by Sam Claflin) lives as a stubborn and cynical recluse in his parents’ country home. Endlessly going through caregivers due to his relentless bad attitude, Will doesn’t give any less attitude when quirky, eccentric, and undertrained Lou (played by Emilia Clarke) shows up. The Traynor family believes that Lou’s peculiar (to put it mildly) and stubborn personality might push Will out of his glum state of mind and open his eyes to the beauty of living life to the fullest no matter the circumstances.

However I felt that this message was lost as Me Before You took a bizarre turn for the worst. (Spoiler alert). After establishing a romantic connection on vacation, Will drops the untimely bomb that he intends to fly to Switzerland to be euthanized. This shocking plot twist comes after the audience (and Lou) learn that Will only ever intended to ‘try’ to live with his disability for six months before he would leave the country to undergo the life-ending procedure that is still illegal in the US. Obviously distraught, Lou begs Will not to go through with his decision, but to no avail, and the film ends with a scene in which Will’s voice-over encourages Lou to “live well.”

I thought it was pretty shocking that such a controversial topic was treated in such a way. This is not to say that the film was an advocate for people living with disabilities to ‘give up’ on living, but I think the issue could have been approached with a little more taste. Yes, the film exemplifies the difficulties of living with a disability or mental illness and it’s great to see these issues being addressed in films (see Still Alice for a great film that addresses mental illness), but killing off the main character for lack of trying to “live well” felt rather blunt and made me feel as though the film’s overarching message was invalid.

What carried the film for me was Emilia Clarke’s performance. Playing an oddball worked for her, and she definitely brought most of the humour to the film. In classic rom-com style, the buildup to the romantic climax was highly anticipated, and Clarke’s loveable character made it that much easier to get on board with Will and Lou’s relationship, which until this point had ticked all the romantic comedy boxes for me.

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