Me Before You tries ever so hard to establish it as a tragic rom-com. Some movies in this genre remain etched in your memory for the wonderful chemistry between the lead actors or the mature and poignant handling of the subject, while the majority are best assigned to the ‘lazy Sunday watch with an ice-cream bucket in hand’ category. Me Before You is no exception and falls in the majority.
Directed by feature film debutante Thea Sharrock, Jojo Moyes’ big screen adaptation of her own bestseller is a rather controversial take on a very sensitive subject. We are introduced to Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) as an excessively chirpy individual (bordering on annoyingly cheerful) with “exotic” fashion choices. Clarke goes from one exuberant expression to the next deer-caught-in-the headlights face. However, it was refreshing to see her exhibit emotions after her stone-faced turn whipping up a mob frenzy in the middle of the desert in Game of Thrones. Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) is the lucky man who has to bear Clark (Clarke – potato, potato) as his caregiver day in and day out. It would be hasty to judge the man’s initial reluctance to fraternize with her. Will’s mother Camilla (Janet McTeer) is extremely concerned about her son’s lack of willingness to continue living as a quadriplegic after a motorcycle accident and thereby brings in Clark to cheer him up. Two questions come to the mind immediately. Is this really the best way to cheer up someone who is constantly reminded of his adventurous exploits before the accident? Would you hire someone with absolutely no experience as a caregiver for your only son?
Will is supposed to be sullen and morose while slowly being swept away by Clark’s infectious gaiety. Claflin carries the part well, with the initial beard giving way to a clean shaven jawline making ladies in the theater swoon. However, the film’s treatment of the other characters is questionable. Camilla’s limited conversations with her husband Stephen (Charles Dance) about Will’s emotional state should have brought the depressing compulsion behind his decision to the fore. One would expect an in-depth treatment of what the family is going through, but it rather pans out as a plot-pusher. Clark’s boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis) comes across as the possessive uncaring thorn in the path of the blossoming romance between Clark and Will. It is difficult to how they could have been in a relationship for seven years when they do not see eye-to-eye on almost anything and there is zero chemistry between them. The plot required a boyfriend and there was poor Neville being the sideshow again. The major takeaway from this that got me excited was that Neville is sleeping with Daenerys. Way to go, old chap!
Claflin and Clark share a warm chemistry and produce a few moments which manage to elicit a few laughs as well as a few sniffles from the crowd. The cinematography is quite incredible, replete with castles, vacations and Paris! However, it does tend to border on property porn. Yes, the Traynors are filthy rich and they own a castle, we get it. Let us get back to the more serious issues with this film. The film fails to discuss how Will feels about his injury or how he came to his decision that forms the driving point of the plot. Instead of exploring the emotions associated with the incident, the film chooses to go from one track to the next. Two Ed Sheeran songs, seriously?
The film follows the rulebook to a T, with each scene being absolutely predictable. It serves as an enabler to the audience, churning out the obvious and inevitable. The conclusion seems forced with the preachy messages (“Live boldly” and “Don’t settle”) coming across as hashtags. The dramatic conflict is lacking which fail to give the deserved cathartic weight of tragedy to the conclusion.
It is a sporadic tearjerker that goes through the motions expected of the genre. A one-time watch, at most!
The attempt to mashup Nicholas Sparks and The Fault in Our Stars (2014) falls flat.