Based on a novel of the same name by Jojo Moyes, Me Before You is a romance film but without the typical layer of boy-meets-girl predictability that we’ve come to expect. While there are romantic movie elements to be found here, there is also some emotional and pretty sad moments too, and without giving too much away, there is perhaps much to be said for this being more of a human drama with a love story mixed in, rather than merely a romantic… chick-flick.
I have to interrupt this review, which I think is fine considering I’m writing it, just to talk about that term for a moment. Chick-flick. Just writing it at the end of that opening paragraph felt wrong. The term in general feels outdated and silly. It is almost like labelling something one-dimensional without actually saying the words. It’s a term I prefer not to use and only did here so I could bring this up. We are at a time where people in general are being treated, hopefully, like individuals with complex identities and all that good stuff, so to label something a “chick-flick” is to label those that enjoy it as “chicks”, and that isn’t particularly something I think is positive. Wow, I’m rambling. Chick-flick isn’t a thing anymore. It’s 2016. A movie is a movie, if it has feminine elements or a love story mixed into it, then just say so. Okay. I’ll continue.
Directed by Thea Sharrock (The Hollow Crown), Me Before You follows Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones), a down-to-earth woman who lives with her sister, nephew, parents and grandfather and is in need of a new job after finding herself unemployed. Lou applies for a role as a caregiver and it offered it by the mother of the man she is to care for, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). Will is paralysed from a motorcycle accident and appears to be depressed, angry and bitter about his obviously horrendous situation. We then follow Lou’s relationship with Will, who initially seems cold towards Lou and reluctant to spend any time with her. The story finds itself delving into Lou’s relationships with her family and her boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis from the Harry Potter series), as well as Will’s relationships with his parents and his other caregiver, Nathan.
I won’t go further into the story because it might give away too much and this is the sort of movie that is best left unspoiled if you’re yet to know where it goes.
The cast do a good job, especially Emilia Clarke who does a great job portraying a modest and relatable woman who has a good heart but struggles with patience at times. I also enjoyed Matthew Lewis’ douche-bag role as Lou’s athletic-obsessed ego-maniac boyfriend Patrick. It’s a big leap away from Lewis’ best known role as Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter. It was fun to see him do something like this, and he did a solid job at it. Claflin (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Snow White & The Huntsman) is also a good casting and shows off some acting chops as Will. The growing relationship between Lou and Will is nicely paced and the two actors take it to a level above what I’d expected.
I thought the writing was a little “off” at times, though couldn’t quite pin-point why. There were a couple of scenes, such as the first scene in which Lou meets Will, which I thought were a little unnecessary and out of place, and while I am unsure if they were in the novel, I felt a touch uneasy with them on screen. I also found myself judging some decisions that were made by the characters themselves. The story takes turns that I feel are a little hard to relate to, and made me wonder whether Moyes made them in order to create a “weepy tale” rather than a strong story.
There are plenty of things to like about Me Before You. There are some things that are typical of films of this type, and there are things that are a bit rough around the edges. I liked it but I didn’t love it, though I could see this really appealing to a large number of people. It is a movie that is given real life because of its cast, and while the writing and the story itself can be flimsy on occasion, it is mostly a solid film.
3 out of 5