Directed by Thea Sharrock
Screenplay by Jojo Moyes
Cinematography by Remi Adefarasin
Starring Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Matthew Lewis
Film Review by Euan Franklin
Continuing the reign of the terminal romcom, Me Before You focuses on the relationship between an affluent quadriplegic and his clueless caretaker. Although the recent controversies buzzing around the film are understandable, the film’s quality proves to be more offensive.
Emilia Clarke slips into a different character altogether from the thick-skinned Mother of Dragons in Game of Thrones. Here, she is Louisa – a bubbly café waitress clad with eccentric charm. The café closes down and she is desperate to find another job to support her working-class family. She eventually lands the job of caring for Will (Sam Claflin), our disabled ex-playboy heartthrob. His mother (Janet McTeer) hires Louisa to coax Will out of his depression, which seems hopeless as he disparages Louisa at every opportunity. When she finally snaps at him, they form a close bond.
Me Before You is the debut film from British theatre director Thea Sharrock, and this experience rubs off. However, as is the case with many theatre professionals, Sharrock’s break into film reveals how little she knows about the form. Yes, she has made the actors feel comfortable in their characters. Yes, she can create lavish sets in fine locations to highlight Will’s opulence. All the same, these elements are compromised by a misunderstanding of cinematic timing – particularly during the comedy scenes. Many lines are funny in the film and the actors’ deliveries are flawless, but Remi Adefarasin’s bland cinematography rarely captures those moments.
I snickered during a scene where Will upstages Louisa’s boyfriend, Patrick (Matthew Lewis), during her birthday party. Patrick is an alpha-male long-distance runner, who feels threatened by Louisa’s new commitment. This makes the passive conflict between the two characters tense and hilarious.
Claflin delivers a subtle emotional performance, but the same cannot be said for Emilia Clarke. Hard as she tried, she couldn’t squeeze out a tear throughout the entire film – something her and I have in common.
Me Before You is told in a style more in touch with Hollywood than Britain. This is established during humiliating montage sequences underscored with cheap and cheesy music. Instead of enhancing our experience, they patronise our intelligence.
This film reminds one of many superior films possessing similar themes. The French film Untouchable and the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything are preferable because their struggles are clearer and we are invited to join that emotional journey. Louisa is employed only to bring cheer in Will’s life rather than deal with his medical needs, which are fixed by another carer. This leaves Will’s physical strains and fights with pneumonia up to the viewer’s imagination. Amid the heated contentions regarding the film’s attitude to disability and euthanasia, I propose that it isn’t daring enough. We can’t engage with Will’s character if we’re looking from a distance. The realities of Will’s condition are conveniently brushed aside to make way for a slushy romance plot.
Despite being ideal for fans of John Green adaptations – sniffling and snorting through their paper-thin tissues – Me Before You is another embarrassing addition to the canon. The controversy is the least of its problems.
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