At first glance you would think Me Before You is a standard rom-com film. Girl meets boy, they fall in love, fall out then make up again while indulging its audience to moments of laughter. Suffice to say this film is not that. The trailer is a little misleading but for those members of the audience who have not read the book that this film is based off, it will take them by surprise. In a delightful, wonderfully scripted film Me Before You will leave you with a gentle tear in the eye while also providing some real talking points among your friends and family. It’s elegant, thought provoking and charming throughout.
Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) is loving life. A beautiful girlfriend, nice apartment in London, important job and well off. Everything appeared to be good until an accident with a motorbike left him almost entirely paralysed from the neck down. Will is now a quadriplegic and confined to his wheel chair each day. His parents have converted their stables into living quarters to help Will and are also looking for someone to be a companion to their son. Lou Clark (Emelia Clarke) is a bubbly girl working in a local cake shop. With her unique and eccentric dress sense she loves to talk but unfortunately the shop is closing down and Lou is made redundant. Needing a job and fast to help support her family she applies for the role advertised by the Traynors. With little or no skills in caring for people and dressed in her mother’s 80’s outfit she manages to charm Camilla Traynor, Wills mum and is offered the role.
It’s not the best of starts for Lou as you might expect. Will is extremely unhappy and quite clearly does not want any company. He therefore puts up barriers and plays loud music to be as obstructive as possible. As the film progresses slowly and surely their relationship begins to grow and their bond reaches a pivotal moment when Will asks Lou to give him a shave. It is arguably the best moment of the film as it shows Will letting someone in. This scene epitomises the entire film. The closeness, the trust and ultimately the intimacy of their relationship. While their bond continues to grow Will has set in motion plans to end his life in Switzerland at the well-known Dignitas Clinic. His parents are aware of his desire and Lou also finds out. Hoping to change his mind she has a plan to show Will that despite being quadriplegic his life still has meaning and purpose.
Its heart wrenching at times to see both characters really reveal their feelings and in that lies the beauty of this film. There are comedy moments to compliment the important yet melancholy storyline, they are subtle but welcomed at the right times to give you a lift. Me Before You is not a sad film, but the theme of someone wanting to end their life because they simply cannot bear it anymore is something nearly all of us will never face. Will can only see what his life was like before the accident, the things he used to be able to do and will never be able to again. The physical but more importantly the emotional pain he endures is expressed on screen brilliantly. Credit has to go to both the director Thea Sharrock and Sam Claflin for his performance.
So this is it. You are scored on my heart, Clark. You were from the first day you walked in, with your ridiculous clothes and your bad jokes and your complete inability to ever hide a single thing you felt.
For those of you who love Home & Away and are missing their Brax fix then Stephen Peacocke makes more than enough of an appearance to satisfy your needs. In fact the film has plenty of well know faces, most of them British which is great to see and confirms that British film has a bright future.
Me Before You has all the ingredients mixed together in the right way to produce a film that is fantastic. You cannot ignore the life Will now leads. Despite Lou showing what his future could be, Will must make a decision solely on him. In essence the title says it all, he puts himself before others and he has to. Lou’s emotional plea will have you grabbing for the tissues and your heart sympathises with both characters. The film is so good it raises the question of ‘What would you do in that situation’. You cannot watch this film and not feel the need to discuss it. It’s an issue that continues to divide all relationships and one that the film depicts carefully.
It’s delightful, funny and thoughtful. You cannot but admire this wonderful film.
Reviewed by Jon Elliott