Me Before You

Posted by Joel Copling on June 2, 2016

There is barely a moment when "Me Before You" doesn't feel intentionally calculated to elicit tearfulness out of its viewers. Perhaps it is the fact that screenwriter Jojo Moyes is adapting her own novel (unread by me) and wants to capture just the right tone, in which case the film's problems are not altogether its own. Perhaps it is the fact that this is a story that has been played out before--that of two twentysomethings who Meet Cute at the wrong time for one of them--and to better effect by gentler handling. It's the type of film commonly attributed to Nicholas Sparks, just set across the pond from those slices of Americana, and suffers from many of the same issues inherit to the romantic soap opera. Worse, a melodramatic development that exists only for the purpose of causing melodrama also manages to cast a negative light on the character in whose romantic prospects we are supposed to believe.

That character would be Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), the guy of our heroine's dreams, whose life essentially ended in a freak motorcycle incident (It's a little irresponsible that the film plays this as a sort-of joke after he's given the advice not to ride his own motorcycle in the rain, making the accident a morbid irony rather than a tragedy). His girlfriend Alicia (Vanessa Kirby) has since run into the affectionate arms of his best friend Rupert (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), because if it isn't just one thing, it's a second. It's also a third, because while medical advances have been made to allow his current nurse Nathan (Stephen Peacocke) to stretch his atrophied muscles, there is no cure for a spinal injury. It's a sadly sedentary life for the man, so it's no wonder that he sets things up for a certain act to be performed after six months in the presence of his parents (Charles Dance and Janet McTeer).

Then he meets the girl for whom he is the dreamy man, our heroine Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke in a performance that can be kindly described as a robot's impression of an enthusiastic person), who is searching for work when she finds it with the Traynors, a wealthy, upper-class family. Lou has her own woes with which to deal, such as an adorable boyfriend named Patrick (Matthew Lewis) who seems maybe a little bit overbearing because he wants her to share his interest in (well, obsession with) fitness by going to a triathlon. Of course, he's treated as the guy from whom she must separate because (as the kids say) reasons, and Lou becomes attached to Will, for whom she does caregiving work while Nathan focuses on other clients. Yes, the decision that Will has made with regard to the trajectory of his life will remain in spite of her presence, and no, the film does not make a worthy argument for him to renege.

Eventually, they must fall in love, and they do: Will is, at first, a cynical, pompous jerkwad whose resolve Lou eventually manages to chip away with the help of her own sister Katrina (Vanessa Kirby) and Will's mother. Eventually, they must let their current or former loves go, and they do: It provides Lou with a beyond-awkward break-up scene and Will with a lovely reconciliation at a wedding that is the only scene that works in the film and showcases one of the two inevitable Ed Sheeran songs on the pop-laden soundtrack. Eventually, the central conflict must raise its head, and it does: Truths are revealed, aspersions are cast, and it's all in time for the flowery finale in which another reconciliation occurs. None of what Moyes and director Thea Sharrock are going for here feels truthful. "Me Before You" enters the realm of the dishonest before it can make a case for inspiring tears.

Film Information

Emilia Clarke (Lou Clark), Sam Claflin (Will Traynor), Janet McTeer (Camilla Traynor), Stephen Peacocke (Nathan), Charles Dance (Stephen Traynor), Jenna Coleman (Katrina "Treena" Clark), Matthew Lewis (Patrick), Vanessa Kirby (Alicia), Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Rupert).

Directed by Thea Sharrock and written by Jojo Moyes, based on the novel by Moyes.

Rated PG-13 (thematic elements, suggestive material).

110 minutes.

Released on June 3, 2016.