7-13 October 2016 #829

Me Before You

This tearjerker has its tricks but it is also a little gem that will move your modern, stoniest sensibilities.
Sophia Pande

What would you do if life as you knew it changed irrevocably and everything you appreciated or took for granted suddenly became irrelevant?

The premise of ‘Me Before You’ observes this sort of gruesome heart-wrenching situation albeit with a somewhat rose-coloured lense. Will Traynor (played by the very handsome Sam Claflin) has everything anyone might want: Good looks, youth, a job that he loves and is very good at, a beautiful girlfriend, and a lifestyle that is straight out of a glossy magazine complete with ski retreats and yachts. He is in the prime of his life when he gets hit by a motorcycle and is left paraplegic.

Will is enormously wealthy, with loving parents, and he is looked after with a degree of care that can only be afforded by the very privileged. When Louisa (the lovely Emilia Clarke who is better known to most people as Daenerys, Queen of the Dragons, from the ubiquitous ‘Game of Thrones’ television series) is hired by Will’s mother Camilla (played with a steely vulnerability by the great Janet McTeer) as a companion to Will, most viewers will understand the challenge she unwittingly confronts in her small town, optimistic innocence.

Louisa or ‘Clark’ as Will refers to her, is a happy-go-lucky, but decidedly not fluffy, girl with an eccentric sense of fashion (think vintage hipster meets English grandmother) and a seemingly endless capacity for entertaining herself while Will shuns her company.

Over days, as characters develop, and Lou struggles with Will’s absolute despair and scathing sharp tongue, the pair grow close, not cloyingly like in a thoughtless, easy, Hollywood montage, but over a real (well, as real as it gets in a mainstream film) revelation of each other’s faults and whimsies.

Claflin is riveting as a tortured Will, with a mobility (his character has almost no movement from the neck down) of expression that conveys the intelligence and spirit of a man who knows that life has dealt him its cruelest blow without blinking an eye.

The love story itself, though admittedly based on the grimmest of circumstances is believable and heartbreaking because we become so enamoured of Will and Lou ourselves - a feat that is achieved by a great deal of thoughtful writing that navigates the highs and lows of the premise without defaulting, as such films are wont to do, into melodrama.

A film about a paraplegic man falling in love is always going to create both controversy and discomfort. Personally, I found ‘Me Before You’ incredibly sensitive, funny, and heartbreaking. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film about love that I found even remotely convincing. This tearjerker has its tricks but it is also a little gem that will move your modern, stoniest sensibilities.