Based on the bestseller by author Jojo Moyes, “Me Before You” (2016) follows the story of the Louisa “Lou” Clark (Emilia Clarke). Lou lives in a small village in the English countryside, where she works in a little café and lives at home with her parents. It’s a life some might call boring, but for Lou, it’s all she has ever known or wanted. When she loses her job, she’s forced to get out of her comfort zone and takes on a care-taking job. Lou has never done anything like it before, but she’s sure she can learn. When she meets Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a young entrepreneur who has been in a motor accident and is now paralyzed from his chest down, she’s not so sure anymore. Will is cynical, depressed and rude to Lou, but when the two get to know each other better, they both realize life can be so much more. But will it be enough for Will?
At the heart of the film, is the character of Lou, brilliantly portrayed by Emilia Clarke, who is best known for her role as Daenerys “Khaleesi” Targaryen in the hit series Game of Thrones. In the show, Clarke plays a determined and, at times, rather cold queen and mother of dragons (and breakers of chains, fist of the first men and all that), but in “Me Before You”, the actress stars as the exact opposite: a bubbly, chatty and witty young woman. It’s both very refreshing and wonderful to watch Clark portray the role of Lou, as the actress delivers the part with so much fun, originality and a complete understanding of her character. In the film, Lou is hired by Will’s parents to cheer him up and show him how much fun life can be, and it’s actually actress Emilia Clarke who cheers up the audience and shows them how much fun a soppy film can be.
Although “Me Before You” (2016) is widely advertised and promoted as a “tear-jerker”, it really isn’t. The film offers a really enjoyable and very good combination between witty and emotional. Clarke’s character Lou is the main source of the humor in the film, with her colorful outfits and the crazy stories she tells Will. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Lou tries to get a table for her and Will at a nice restaurant and she’s refused because she doesn’t own a premium badge (how snobbish can a restaurant be, honestly). Instead, the lady tells Lou she and Will can have dinner in the relaxed dining area, to enjoy some hotdogs and applesauce. Lou is not amused (understandably) and as a final response, Lou tells the restaurant host: “You can show that badge up your relaxed dining area!”. It’s a really unexpected moment of comic relief and thanks to Clarke’s wonderful portrayal, it’s a great one.
But Lou is not alone in this story; she shares it with Will, as portrayed by Sam Claflin. The actor, previously known for his role as Finnick Odair in The Hunger Games series and Alex in Love, Rosie (2014), does a good job portraying depressed and cynical Will. Claflin’s character is paralyzed from the chest down, a disability called quadriplegia, and it has turned his life upside down. In the film, the actor only has got his face to express thoughts and feelings with, and he does so very well. Although Claflin’s acting does get slightly overshadowed by Clarke’s energy and radiance. Together, though, they are phenomenal. One of the best aspects of “Me Before You” (2016) is the chemistry between the two lead actors, they work together beautifully.
One of things that bothered me about “Me Before You” (2016) is how casually quadriplegia is used in the film. It’s never explain or shown in great detail, only one shot of the washing chair in the bathroom and that’s it – it’s as if the film is too afraid to reach beneath the surface and really, really touch upon what it’s like to live with this specific disability. In recent interview, author of the novel and screenwriter of the adaptation Jojo Moyes has admitted that she never actually contacted or spoke to anyone with quadriplegia upon writing the novel. This results in a more shallow and simplistic view on this specific disability, while the film really could have benefited from a little depth and honesty on the subject.
All in all, “Me Before You” (2016) is still a very entertaining, moving and enjoyable film. The reason is Emilia Clarke’s portrayal of Lou, which is both hilarious, touching and strangely relatable. Nonetheless, the film could have spend more time and effort on Will’s disability, which would have made the film less superficial and even more touching.