THE young woman says, ‘I can make you happy’. The handsome man in the wheelchair replies that he would rather die than continue life as a quadrapelgic. And that sums up the title of this movie, Me Before You. Adapted from the bestseller by Brit author Jojo Meyers, the sentiment expressed could well be a shoutout to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of putting oneself first, rejecting the traditional ethics of altuisim.
The decision by the young wheelchair-bound once-upon-a-time buck, Will (played admirably by Sam Claflin of Hunger Games fame) is understandable as the movie shows indirectly – through photographs and his friends’ recollections – that he was an extraordinary athlete. Hence, his inability to carry on living the way he is, even with the love of the young woman, Louisa (Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones fame). Not even his parents’ love could move his euthanasia decision.
But aren’t we all imperfect, is a nagging question.
Ms Meyer has written a negative view of life for the disabled person, which admittedly contrasts superbly with the effervescence of Louisa, who seems a bit of an airhead but with a big heart.
That negativity is very different from the reality around us as we see disabled people continuing to strive to live better lives even showing up some able-bodied people. The ones who climb Mt Everest, still win surfing competitions, or rewrite science – with their disabilities. That will to survive, that love for people is what makes the world so wonderful, I do believe.
Then again, it reflects on a generation who is given everything, courtesy of doting parents, so when life throws a curve — aahh, the young one throws in the towel, it does seem.
So, Me Before You is a perplexing movie in the end. However, people will find it a tearjerker of a romance story, judging from the sniffs in the cinema hall.
The story is about Louisa, a 26-year-old working-class girl who takes on a job as a “care assistant” to a rich and angry 35-year-old Will. His desperate mum, Camilla (Janet McTeer) is the one who hires Louisa. She hopes that somehow Louisa might boost his morale.
His rudeness soon melts in the face of Louisa’s sunny nature, even if she comes across rather insipid in intelligence, and lacking confidence. At some point in this movie, you just want to give her a good shake!
When she discovers his end-of-life wish, she decides – actually her younger sister Katrrina (Jenna Coleman) comes up with this idea – to get Will a ‘bucket list’ so that he will find life interesting again.
Director Thea Sharrock, her first cinematic offering after being in theatre, has brought a nuanced timing to Me Before You. While one feels too much nudging to feel a certain pathos for the budding love story, which screenplay was also the work of Meyets, the scenes do flow well. I found the over-use of songs jarring to the emotional ebb and flow of the movie. Sometimes, silence works. But in this movie, every dramatic moment has a song.
But the acting is winsome. Kudos to the cast. Clarke and Claflin bring emotional depth to their stereotypes characters. Clarke proves she has the ability to channel very different characters, given her role in Game Of Thrones. In Me Before You, Clarke plays the quirky Louisa who believes love can fix any problem to the hilt.
Claflin expresses his emotions in his very immobolised condition with eyebrow jerks, eye movements and a great smile. He is a seriously good-looking actor. Cinema has found a new leading romance hero.
At the end, you may tear up or find Will’s decision strange. Either way, Me Before You makes for some contemplation on life and the choices you make.