Those of us who
have read the book (by JoJo Moyes) before seeing the film sometimes begin
with a disadvantage: we’ve
got these characterizations in our heads, and the figures on the screen
don’t necessarily correspond to them.
“Me Before You” is an exception:
the casting is really excellent.
And Emilia Clarke is brilliant is Lou, a twenty-something
“townie” who still lives at home and hasn’t really been anywhere or
done anything, besides working part-time at a local pastry shop.
But when that job suddenly ends, she’s really desperate, because
her Dad is out of work, and her older sister has a young child, and the
family just needs the income. So
she applies for a job for which she has absolutely no qualifications:
as a caregiver to a quadriplegic.
Before the tragic accident, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) was a great
athlete, a daring adventurer, and a successful (though cutthroat)
businessman. In short, he had
the world by the tail, until one day he gets run over by a motorcycle
while hailing a cab in the rain. Spinal
cord injury. Permanent.
No real hope of improvement. He
can move the fingers of one hand just enough to push the button on his
self-propelled wheelchair. Other
than that, he needs assistance with everything.
Which he absolutely hates. Actually,
he’s ready to just end it all, but he promises his parents he’ll give
them six months if they’ll allow him to fly to Switzerland afterwards
for the euthanasia. They
reluctantly agree; feeling it’s better than finding him with his wrists
slit again. But they secretly
hope that this perky and quirky new caregiver might brighten up Will’s
It isn’t easy, of course. Will’s
determined to be the sour curmudgeon, but Lou’s spirit is just
irrepressible. Her wardrobe is
somewhere between tacky and fanciful, but her face is so expressive, and
her eyes so mischievous, and her smile so bright, that Will can’t help
but smile at her, despite himself. He
affects condescension by calling her by her last name (Clark), but he’s
enjoying watching her experience many things for the first
time---beginning with a movie with subtitles, and moving all the way to
Emilia Clarke is nothing short of lustrous in this role.
We can’t help but enjoy her silly tenderness, as well, and her
wide-eyed innocence. She hopes
against hope that Will Traynor will change his mind about his intentions.
But really, what he wants is for her to change her mind about his
freedom of choice. Despite the
melodramatic context, it’s not as maudlin as you might fear.
It’s an effervescent romance in a wheelchair-bound setting.
Perfect for all of us romantic fools.