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New Release Review - ME BEFORE YOU

A young woman is hired to provide company for a quadriplegic man.




Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Thea Sharrock

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Vanessa Kirby, Charles Dance, Joanna Lumley



The problem with Me Before You's stance on euthanasia is that it constantly tells us how much pain Will is in, but never dares to back this up visually, making it all too easy for those who oppose the practice to dismiss the film as an offensive and demeaning take on life for the disabled.



Following such duds as Dom Hemingway and Terminator: Genisys, Emilia Clarke is back with another attempt to establish a post Game of Thrones movie career in this adaptation of a bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes, an attempt to cash in on the success of The Fault in our Stars and quench a section of cinemagoers' thirst for stories of romance found against the odds. It just might help Clarke from disappearing into obscurity when her HBO contract runs out, as she's excellent here.


Clarke plays Louisa, a scatterbrained twenty-something trapped in a small town by a combination of her own lack of faith in herself and a sense of duty towards her family, struggling to stay afloat since her father was made redundant. After losing her job in a local café, she accepts a position as a companion to Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a handsome young quadriplegic whose promising career as an entrepeneur in some unnamed field of business was ended by a traffic accident. At first Will is hostile towards Louisa and her chatty ways, but she wears him down and seems to give him a new lease of life. Predictably enough, Louisa falls for Will, only to discover his plan to undergo an assisted suicide at a Swiss clinic. Can she change his mind so the pair can live happily ever after together?

The basic setup of Me Before You is essentially a remake of the 2011 French hit Intouchables with a romantic angle thrown in. The Gallic movie was cringeworthy in its reductive representation of race, and Me Before You commits the same sins, only swapping race out for class here. The portrayal of Louisa's working class family is straight out of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, complete with live-in Grandad. Will patronisingly introduces Louisa to world cinema, the film implying that working class viewers are too ignorant to read subtitles, preferring Will Ferrell movies instead.


Narrative shortcuts are taken at every step, with Louisa's boyfriend portrayed as the sort of narcissistic oaf the character would never have gotten involved with in the first place, and every plot development is revealed through dialogue rather than images, with the viewer regularly joining in as Louisa listens in on secret conversations.

All that said, Clarke gives such a charming, exuberant performance, portraying a character that could easily have gotten irritating very quickly, that she manages to sweep these issues under the carpet to some degree.


The film has to be commended for its position on assisted suicide. If this were a Hollywood production we would know the answer to the question of whether or not Louisa can change Will's mind, but Me Before You approaches the subject in such a mature and compassionate manner that we're genuinely left guessing right up to the climax as to which way this is going to go.

It's easy for those of us fortunate enough not to be in such a position as Will to puff our chests out and claim we could fight on through the pain, but could we really if it came down to it? The problem with Me Before You's stance on euthanasia is that it constantly tells us how much pain Will is in, but never dares to back this up visually, making it all too easy for those who oppose the practice to dismiss the film as an offensive and demeaning take on life for the disabled.

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