Fans of Jojo Moyes’ bestselling novel have been waiting years for the film release of Me Before You but it’s finally here. When people ask me what my favourite book is, Me Before You is always one of the titles mentioned (see review here). I have never read another book that wrenched my heart out the way this story did and I cried for hours after this story finished. It’s the sort of story that leaves you thinking about it for days afterwards and led me to do lots of research about the themes discussed such as paralysis and others I won’t give away. I’d describe it as The Fault in Our Stars for adults, but way, way better.
Me Before You begins when Louisa Clarke is made redundant. Money is tight for her family so she immediately takes herself off to the job centre to find something new to do and rather unexpectedly ends up hired by the wealthy Traynor family to care for their quadriplegic son, Will. At first, things are very difficult with him. Will used to be very successful, wealthy banker before he was involved in a motorbike accident two years prior that left him paralysed from the chest down. He is cynical and bitter but gradually Lou’s cheer and persistence wear him down and Will starts to enjoy parts of life again. Both lives are irrevocably changed by their meeting – but how?
Just one day after release we can see that the critics have given Me Before You a rating of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes but audiences have ranked it at 85%. This is the sort of film that critics were always going to hate on and to be honest, a lot of the points that prominent critics have made are very valid. However, at the end of the day, most people go to the cinema to be entertained and any film that can wrench audiences’ hearts out is well worth a watch in my opinion. There were a few laughs across the cinema throughout the film, but when we left, there wasn’t a dry eye in sight. Actors who can make you both laugh and cry in the same film, sometimes all at once, deserve some sort of recognition in my opinion as it’s no easy feat. Me Before You is both a comedy and a tragedy and somehow both elements fit together very well.
Emilia Clarke’s interpretation of Lou as a cheerful, rather silly, young girl comes across well on the big screen and you can’t help but smile at her constant high spirits. I wish more people like Lou existed in this world as I’m sure the world would be a much happier place. However, I could not write a review of Me Before You without discussing Emilia Clarke’s eyebrows. What’s going on there?! I have never seen more expressive eyebrows in my life. Eyebrows definitely not on fleek in this case. A lot of the emotional scenes were ruined for me because of Emilia Clarke’s excessive facial expressions, which on occasion made me want to laugh out loud. These lapses of over-the-top acting did bother me slightly but do not ruin the overall film, which I suppose is all rather dramatic anyway. It is hard to know whether this is a failing of Emilia Clarke or an attempt to really get into her role as Lou who is thoroughly silly.
In contrast to this, Sam Claflin’s performance as Will Traynor was really excellent. I imagine it is really rather difficult to play a quadriplegic man realistically when you yourself have full control over your own body. Will is a tortured character who struggles massively because his new life is so different to his former one and Claflin conveys this character’s pain to us well. He went from grouchy to cheery to loveable and proved himself to be a very worthy Will Traynor.
To those who have hit out against Me Before You because of the way it portrays disabled people, all I have to say is this is a work of fiction. It is partly inspired by the true story of rugby player Daniel James and is just one scenario for disabled people. I do not believe that Jojo Moyes or the film writers are trying to make any sort of comment on what it’s like to have a disability, this is just one person’s story. If the story had had a happy ending, I’m sure other people would have hit out saying that they’ve made disabled life look far too cushy. There’s just no winning. I personally think it’s a step in the right direction that a major blockbuster featuring a disabled man as the protagonist has been released as it still helps to raise awareness.
All in all, Me Before You is not bad at all as book to film adaptations go, but I can see what the critics complained about. The emotional pull factor aids this film greatly despite its flaws, but the emotional drama still keeps viewers entertained and I didn’t see a single dry eye leaving the cinema. For those who are unsure if they’d like to see this film following critics’ reviews, I’d tell you to ignore the professional critics. No, Me Before You is not going to win an Oscar, but it will have you on the brink of both tears and laughter for almost two hours and it is a simply unforgettable story.
Have you seen or read Me Before You? What did you think of it? And what do you make of this backlash from the disabled community?