Movie Review: “Me Before You”
Me Before You
Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) is a very wealthy and successful businessman. He is also very active, and takes a great amount of pride in his exercise and physical activities. However, tragedy struck one day while Will is walking to work. After he inadvertently stepped in front of a speeding motorcycle, the accident that followed left Will permanently paralyzed from the neck down.
Years later, Will is still struggling to find meaning in what he sees as a limited life, and he is in need of a new live-in companion. Will already has a nurse, but not one that lives in the home, and Will’s mother (Janet McTeer) believes her son needs more around-the-clock supervision. Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) has no experience caring after someone who is physically disabled, but Will’s mother sees something between the two that suggests Lou might be exactly what her son needs. However, convincing the once proud, but now humiliated, Will will be another story entirely.
The Pros & Cons
Emilia & Hiring Lou (-3pts)
Will & Lou (+5pts)
The Ending (+4pts)
Pro: Will (+6pts)
I went into this movie expecting a standard romantic story, but was pleasantly surprised by the dramatic depth of the main character. He was once a very proud and successful businessman, but suffered a great tragedy. He survived, sure, but his life would never be what it was before the accident. Throughout this movie, Will struggled with the weight of what happened, struggled to find meaning in his new life, and struggled to see his new life as anything more than useless. I went into this movie knowing the premise, but expected the romantic side of this movie to gloss over the dramatic weight that someone in this character's shoes would have to deal with. Fortunately, the filmmakers delivered a compelling main character.
On top of how pleasantly surprised that I was by the dramatic depth that this character had, I was also surprised by how well Sam Claflin did in the role. I really only knew this guy from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which was not exactly the type of role that would impress you dramatically. Thus, I did not have any expectations when it came to Sam Claflin in this role. However, he did a really great job of balancing the tones of this movie. He played all the drama really effectively, and did just as well with the light-hearted and romantic moments. He played the light-hearted moments with enough depth that I still always felt the character's pain, even in the character's happiest moments. The overall movie could have been better, but this was a surprisingly complex and dramatic character, and Sam Claflin did a great job of bringing Will to the screen.
Con: Emilia & Hiring Lou (-3pts)
I definitely liked Emilia Clarke as Daenarys in Game of Thrones, but this character was a big departure from the attitude of the Mother of Dragons. Lou was definitely more in line with an exaggerated version of Emilia Clarke’s real-life personality. She was energetic and colorful, but I thought she was a bit too over-the-top for this movie. It was not that the performance was “bad”, but there were a number of scenes where I did not think the character fit with everything else that was happening.
Then there was the setup to her getting hired by Will’s mother. I do not want to give the story away, but I was completely on board with the rest of the setup of this movie. I was on board with it right up until Lou got hired. The character had no experience caring for someone with even half the needs that Will had. I also did not buy that the dynamic between her and Will was enough for Will’s mother to be able to look past Lou’s lack of experience. I get that the filmmakers needed Lou to be hired for the job, but they could have done a much better job of explaining how that happened.
Pro: Will & Lou (+5pts)
These two characters had polar opposite personalities, which made them work really well together. Will was the embodiment of depression and pain, while Lou was a symbol of optimism and hope. At the beginning of this movie, Will seemed too far gone. He was at rock bottom, and it seemed like finding happiness would be impossible for him.
You certainly will not relate to his life before the accident, but seeing how far he had fallen will make you feel for the guy. You will want to see him find hope and joy, which were things that Lou seemed to radiate. This was not your average chemistry between two lead characters in a romantic movie. Will’s tragic story was compelling, and it will make you really want to root for these two characters’ potential relationship. She has the ability to give his life meaning, which is something that the filmmakers did a really good job of making me want to see, but Will knew that—as much as he may care about her—he could never give her the life he thought she deserved. This could have been an average romance, but these two characters had really complex feelings for one another, and I was totally invested in their story.
Con: Predictable (-3pts)
This one was a weird one, because it was not the ending that I found to be predictable. Usually, when a movie is predictable, you have a pretty good idea of how it will end, even if you do not know exactly how the filmmakers will get there. This movie ended up being the opposite of that. Instead of the ending being predictable, it was the entire rest of the story that was predictable for this movie. With this movie, Will’s state made the possible ending of this movie more unclear than it would have been in a typical romance. However, the entire road leading up to the ending was extremely predictable, which definitely hurt how much I was invested in the story.
Pro: The Ending (+4pts)
I literally just mentioned this in the last section of this review, so I will keep this one brief. Anyway, this movie ended in a way that I definitely did not expect. It was an impactful ending that will leave you thinking long after it is over. The movie felt very typical through everything that led up to the ending, but the ending delivered an impactful climax for these characters’ stories. It was an impactful climax for Will’s story, while also being an impactful climax for Lou’s story, as well as for their story together. Some may not like how it ended, others may understand the characters’ mindsets, but I think it was an impactful ending for this story either way.
Con: Suicide (-5pts)
I completely understood Will’s depression. Thus, I understood why he contemplated suicide, but I found it off-putting that this movie treated it as a serious option. Whether or not he went through with it is honestly irrelevant, but the way that the filmmakers portrayed it sent a bad message. Will believed his existence was a burden, and contemplated suicide to spare others from wasting their lives to take care of him. I get that the character was depressed, so I understand why he thought the way he did. However, the filmmakers could have done a better job at handling these dark thoughts.
They played it as if we were supposed to see Will as morally righteous and selfless, because he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice due to how much he loved Lou. Even if he did not go through with it, the filmmakers portrayed Will—as he contemplated suicide—in a way that glorified the horrible act. I was fine with him thinking what he thought, because that is unfortunately realistic, but the filmmakers should have shown other characters shutting that idea down and reasoning with Will. Instead, the filmmakers took a really serious thing and played for romance.
Grade: C+ (79pts)
I went into this movie expecting it to be an average romantic story, but it ended up being more compelling than I anticipated. This mostly came from the complexity of the main character, Will. He was deeply depressed after his accident, and this story ended up being a story about a man finding meaning and happiness in what he saw as a limited, shell of a life. Will was a hopeless character, and Lou was the embodiment of hope, so had the potential to bring him out of his depression.
Their relationship was an interesting one to watch unfold, because the two characters were—mentally—in very different places at the beginning of this movie, so it was interesting to see their impact on one another. However, the movie was not without its problems. Lou’s hiring was pretty unbelievable, the filmmakers sent a weird message regarding suicide, and the entire rising action of this movie felt pretty predictable. There was a pretty decent story here, a compelling main character, and a romance that was easy to root for, but the movies weaknesses made it only a slightly above average romantic movie.