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Me Before You (Movie Review)


Substance Before Predictability

Me Before You is a British-American Romantic Drama Film, directed by Thea Sharrock and starring both Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. The film centres round Clarke’s character, Louisa Clarke, a bright and energetic countryside woman who due to being troubled for money, becomes carer to William Traynor: a once charismatic, life-loving banker turned-cynic after an accident paralysed him. Once the two characters come together, the inevitable friction follows and the romantic journey begins. Clichés and cringe-worthy moments aside, it’s not actually the development and blossom of the romance that gives Me Before You it’s life. It’s the deep dive into hard-hitting themes of certain life changes: how to make the most of what you have and what you can do while you still can.

That Bug shirt though. So fab. Phwoar. 

The second she pops up on screen, Emila Clarke’s portrayal of Louisa makes you smile with a warm glow you don’t expect. From her dazzling leggings and insect-themed shirts to her bubbly awkwardness, you constantly wish you could give Louisa a hug every time she does or says something to make things better for everyone around her (which is all the time). Clarke’s performance is of a character who is trying almost too hard to make people happy rather than coming off as trying too hard to be that character herself. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Sam Claflin’s William Traynor effectively makes you feel rough and unsettled as his cynical and harsh personality in the film’s first act clashes with Louisa’s smile-ridden attempts to help where she can. Banter-fuelled exchanges included, Clarke and Claflin have great chemistry on-screen. Cast as Will’s parents, Janet McTeer and Charles Dance are hands down the highlights of the supporting players: giving grounded and emotional performances as parents who would do anything for their son. As William becomes more open and outgoing though, you can’t help but feel Claflin felt more at home performing as the sarcastically cold and emotionally-wounded version of the character. Luckily Clarke’s Louisa works well enough with him on-screen to have you smile.

Not her best but definitely Clarke's most loveable performance.
 
Me Before You easily had the opportunity to give in entirely to the typical romantic drama formula: Man and woman from opposite backgrounds; personalities clash, slight common ground wears the barrier down, the relationship stumbles, lovey-dovey climax soothes it out, happily ever after. Does Me Before You still follow this formula in some way? Definitely. However, its strength comes from following the struggles of William himself. You’re grabbed and dragged down to how a man who enjoyed life to the fullest -cliff diving; skiing, casually chilling in Paris- is now a shell of his former because of his paralysis. Sam Claflin’s power in his performance as Will comes from the pain of being a man who did everything his body was capable of, to not being able to do anything at all. There are moments when you feel Will’s vulnerability and share his pain as you look at his then and now. It isn’t just how it affects Will either, but those close to him. One of the most powerful scenes in the film is between Will’s parents, over how it’s changed them and how they feel for their son, caused a drop in my chest right down to a pit in my stomach. This emotional impact is a peak only achieved by the writing of the scene accompanied by the great casting of Charles Dance and Janet McTeer themselves.

Charles Dance is basically a more chilled version of his take on Tywin Lannister. It's awesome. 

A film with a theme as powerful as dealing with life-changing injuries, you wouldn’t expect the pairing of Will and Louisa as characters to create such joy and comedic charm, but it works so well. The character of Will in the first act appears like the embodiment of any male feeling like they’re about to see any typical romantic drama: negative, feeling nothing predictably good will come from here and just wanting to roll your eyes and soldier on. Like Will himself, the character of Louisa wears you down rolling in as a happy ball of kook. As Louisa keeps making us smile, she makes Will do the same, evolving into wanting to make Louisa have the adventures he no longer can, until it gets to the point where you feel like you wouldn’t even care if they became romantically involved or not. What’s great about Me Before You is that it is a film about someone having their life drastically changed for the worse, but it is shown with a steamroller of delight that proves that there are still thrills and enjoyment to be had in life.

Definitely some memorable onscreen chemistry.

As you become drawn into Will’s bold and weighty arc, becoming so empathetic and supportive of the character, it’s a shame he wasn’t fleshed out enough in the film’s start-up in exchange for an unnecessary side-story. There is a mini-plot that is peppered throughout the film involving Louisa’s boyfriend Patrick that seems unnecessary. The message that Louisa would be better off with someone more suitable goes on a roller-coaster that could have been replaced with a two minute scene. I would have loved to have seen more of Will’s life before his accident instead of the rush job we got in the film’s beginning. You’d feel so much more empathy and understanding for Will’s cold and sarcastic cynicism when he first meets Louisa, if you could see more of how he was before he suffered the injury that put him in that position. Every time you find yourself at a scene involving either Patrick or Louisa’s family, you may find yourself begging to be transported back to the more interesting story and character arcs.

The "Oh God. She's going to talk" face.

Also, as suffered by romantic dramas/comedies that came before, there are the uncomfortable character arc montages. You’re sucked away from the balance of a grounded but energetic tone to forced sequences of cheesy music and “Yeah we can do this. Go Team!”-style clips which will make you sigh as it rushes you from one plot point to another.

Verdict

Although still falling victim of some typical Romantic Drama tropes, Me Before You manages to escape fading into the void like others before with a unique and powerful story following Will, alongside the heart and warmth that Louisa brings into the mix. If you’re like the five crying women that were sat in the cinema seats next to me, you may still find some joy in the clichés that you’ve seen in the scores of stories that have come before. On the other hand, if you’re able to power through the awkward montages and googly eye moments, you’ll find something new that’s bold and with a lot of charm. Along with continuously laughing at its banter, you can't help but grin at the chemistry between its two leading cast members.

Rating: 7.5/10

 
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