Written by Marie Defreitas
Jojo Moyes pours quite a bit of warmth and heartache into her novel “Me before You,” most of which is wrapped into this endearing film adaptation.
William Traynor (Sam Claflin) is a man who’s life fits together like a jigsaw puzzle, but he is introduced to a harsh reality when he is hit by a motorcycle and is paralyzed from the neck down. Then comes along Lou Clarke (Emilia Clarke), a cheery, bubbly and profoundly lovable girl who stumbles into Will’s life as his home nurse.
There’s no doubting the chemistry between the two characters, on and off screen. From their first scene together there’s a constant push-and-pull of sarcasm and witty playfulness. Even though Claflin’s character starts out as cold and moody–very opposed to the idea of yet another person having to care for him–as the film progresses we dig deeper into his character, exposing layers of compassion and a fondness for Lou.
Lou herself brings what Claflin referred to as a contagious smile, that never seemed to regress though the early scenes. A little contrary to Emilia’s character in the popular “Game of Thrones” series, here–instead of a strong, determined leader–we encounter a more vulnerable, exuberant sweetheart that forces our tears every time we see hers.
Throughout this film, we are greeted with impressive cinematography and scenery, including the Traynor family castle, where most scenes take place. This, along with the soundtrack, really attempts to put the audience into that fairytale setting. However, the soundtrack did feel a bit misplaced in some scenes; in one scene we are supposed to feel hopeful for our main character, but we are met with slow, despairing tunes.
Other than this, the transitions between each scene flowed quite nicely. Regarding how the film differs from the novel, Lou’s character seems to have lost some depth along the way. In the novel, we learn of Lou’s own troubles and how she has been sexually assaulted in the past.
The one aspect that ultimately separates this tragic love story from your average Nicholas Sparks novel is the ending. The movie ends (spoiler alert!) with Will Traynor deciding to end his life in an assisted suicide. In the movie, Lou criticizes Will’s decision out of heartache and calls him selfish. But if we are to really think about it, was it really selfish?
Throughout the film we learn about Will’s condition; we learn the numerous medications he has to take, how violently ill he can become from a simple cold and of course the constant assistance he needs to do absolutely anything. However, Will has a certain disposition. He’s playfully sarcastic — a bit of a smart-aleck — and hides his pain behind this.
If his character behaved otherwise and continually reminded us of his struggle, we may react differently. But he doesn’t. Which makes his final decision all the more heartbreaking.
All in all the film tells a sweet story of the unfortunate way these two characters came into each other’s lives. The ending leaves us with a bit of closure from the emotional rollercoaster when Lou reads a letter Will left for her.
“Me Before You,” depicts a very serious situation wrapped in some lighthearted giggles, with two actors that play off of each other completely brilliantly. It may not engulf us in an enthralling tale where the journey of the characters is our own, but nonetheless, be prepared to grab the tissues!