Me Before You: Film Review
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, Stephen Peacocke, Matthew Lewis, Jenna Coleman
Director: Thea Sharrock
The Fault in Our Stars, If I Stay, Last Cab to Darwin; there have been a growing number of cinematic entrants to the pantheon of doomed love and illness literature in the past few years.
The latest contender, Me Before You, taken from Jo Jo Moyes' book and adapted by the author, is the most current addition to the cinematic experience that is kryptonite to many - the weepie.
Buoyed by likeable (and bankable) stars Emilia Clarke (she of dragons and Thrones fame) and Sam Claflin (he of Hunger Games fame), large swathes of this story are forgiven their cliches because of the chemistry between this duo.
Claflin plays Will Traynor, an aristocratic castle-dwelling guy who lives life to the full, has it all and in a sequence before the credits, has it all taken away and is paralysed from the neck down when hit by a motorbike. Trapped in a chair in a small town, his life as a quadriplegic his future.
Enter Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke as the eccentric small town girl Lou Clark, a perpetually perky, expressively eye-browed, quirkily dressed potential carer, whose life is a struggle to help her family and make ends meet. Initially reticent and hostile to Lou, Will finds her perkiness wears him down - and the two begin to form a friendship.
However, in the background, a dark secret is waiting.
Meshing the Intouchables with an English sensibility and a different performance from Clarke, this fairy tale story of the guy in the castle in the village is exactly what you'd expect from the genre.
Wrapped in portions of humour - some appropriate, some not - and blessed with two chalk and cheese leads that you actually manage to care about even though it's a story you've seen a million times before, Me Before You is a twee journey that dawdles a little on its way to its eventual destination.
The problem is that the struggle for Will never feels real and a story decision over assisted suicide feels narratively necessary for the film and book's USP rather than the cinematic catharsis. It's no discredit to Claflin at all, whose subtle performance is perfectly in keeping with the genre and shows his bitterness at times, but merely the writing which lets him down.
He's not alone though, as the film is packed full of underwritten and underused supporting characters that hardly feature except when it suits proceedings. (Step forward, Matthew Lewis aka Neville Longbottom and Lou's boyfriend)
Inevitably the Hollywood trappings and tropes of the genre forbid the darkness from seeping into this rom-com-sick-lit piece, and it's a shame that the final portion of the film actually lacks some of the emotional heft it could have achieved. (Though there were some women at the screening with wet eyes).
Still in a film where one of the leads has never seen a subtitled film or where another is constantly apparently in pain but never glimpsed, it's to be expected of Me Before You.
Shoe-horning in melodrama at the end and washing everything over with a twee brush and a MOR soundtrack is to be expected, and ultimately, Me Before You works within the confines of its genre,
However, it means this mix of wannabe optimism, bizarre take on the reality of being disabled and predictable formulaic fare is what you'd expect - but given its euthanasia edges and the debate of a right to die storyline, those involved fudge the most interesting kernel of the piece in favour of a quirky and mawkish rom-com.