Now this is a film whose trailer was almost good enough to persuade me to add it onto my recommendation list for June but then also being purposely described as “weepy” by its own advertising, it didn’t quite make the cut, but I decided to see it anyway. Based on the book by romance novelist Jojo Moyes, which tells the story of Louisa (Emilia Clarke) who, desperate for a job, is hired as a caregiver for paraplegic Will (Sam Claflin). Perky, positive Lou and grumpy, cynic Will don’t quite get on at first but things will change dramatically for the both of them.
The acting of this film is no doubt going to divide audience opinion and that’s based on Emilia Clarke, there’s two ways to look at her performance as the bumbling, loveable, quirky Louisa; either that it’s charming or that it’s a clichéd version of characters we’ve seen before like Bridget Jones. If you’re in the camp of the more positive opinion then you’ll love Clarke’s performance and simply enjoy her relentless energy and her big heart, and realistically if that isn’t for you, you probably shouldn’t be seeing this film. This is the first time she’s really been seen to take on a role of this type and she could be setting herself up as the new face of British romance but it’s unequivocally a better fit for the actress than her role in Terminator: Genisys. Claflin shows there’s more to him with this one, tackling the huge issue of paraplegia and portraying the resentment and pain that goes with it, stepping away from the often cheeky charm he provides but as his character gradually warms up a little of that returns. Matthew Lewis returns to the big screen after being seen in BBC series Bluestone 42, Ripper Street and Happy Valley, as Patrick boyfriend to Louisa and fitness fanatic, a fairly typical role but a good addition to the cast. Jenna Coleman as sister Katrina however is fairly underused and her role is limited to moral support with little more to add. Another cast member will be familiar to those of you that saw Whiskey Tango Foxtrot recently in cinemas, Stephen Peacocke who played Nic in that film, now playing Nathan and another pleasant addition.
The story is one of importance, the struggles to be forced into a life that has little connection to the one you once knew and the options that are available, as well as the consequent affect on those around you. For such a deep issue to be presented within the context of a romance sounds strange but somehow while watching, that assumed strangeness does not arise and is actually a moving and emotional film. The simple fact that the film manages to be a romance while actually having a story to tell and a plot to unfold immediately puts it a step in front of most, films that simply take you from boy meets girl to boy and girl end up together. It’s an unconventional romance but the genuine and touching quality of the film makes it a surprisingly good watch, which is completely undermined by describing it in advertising as “weepy” because it has more to offer than being simply canon fodder for soppy female audiences; most romance films will come and go while barely being noticed because few of them are worth the attention, but Me Before You goes bucks that trend and makes a film worth watching.
Clarke and Claflin make for a great duo and the completely different nature of this film to most romances gives it a leg up and its approaches to disability as well as euthanasia are refreshing. Me Before You is certainly emotional but it’s also genuine, heart-warming, heartbreaking and surprisingly funny. This film still won’t be for everyone, as there’s a lot of people who don’t enjoy romantic or emotional films but if you are one of those people that do enjoy them, this is a good film to choose. And the good news for any people who do love the film is the follow up book to the original, After You is available right now.