ME BEFORE YOU
Director: Thea Sharrock
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Matthew Lewis, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Brendan Coyle
Bring your tissues as you may need them for the latest tearjerker romance to hit the big screen. Me Before You is the extremely popular book by Jojo Moyes that was the target of many book clubs across the nation. She has written the screenplay for the movie so there is a level of trust in place that the movie version will be faithful to the book. Emilia Clarke stars as the perky Louisa “Lou” Clarke who has recently lost her job at a bakery. After meeting with a staffer at a job agency, she applies to be the caregiver for a quadriplegic man living at a castle nearby. Only after accepting the job does she realize that he is the young and gorgeous Will Traynor. His relationship and outgoing lifestyle were forever changed when he was crossing the street and hit by a motorcycle. Now he’s bitter, anger, and irritable. His personality really clashes with the always-chatty Lou to the point where she contemplates quitting.
Slowly but surely they start to open up to each other, and like any good romantic story, the sparks between them cannot be extinguished even if he tries to fight it. If you’ve read or seen any other story like this, you know there must be that big revelation that has to rear its ugly and become a game changer between the two of them. I have never read the book, and I was pleasantly surprised to say that I didn’t see that one coming.
Fans of The Notebook and The Fault in Our Stars will no doubt latch on to Lou and Will’s story. There is a desire for some to be swept away by an impossible romance. You have your plucky, yet awkward, female protagonist who falls for the rich guy, the laid back guy, or the dreamboat who toys with her emotions along the way. It’s a tried and true plot device, and naturally there are some predictable moments along the way. The caveat is if the author, in this case Jojo Moyes, can somehow put a fresh spin on this concept. Without divulging too much, I admire her for the big twist and it’s ending. It should come as no surprise that Lou is already in a long-lasting relationship with her cycling obsessed boyfriend, Patrick. He’s played by a post-Harry Potter Matthew Lewis and is a bit daft and far more focused on his athleticism than he is about her. They’ve been together for seven years at this point, so maybe he’s grown too comfortable in their ways. With Will, Moyes plays into that classic fantasy of falling for the boy in the castle. I get it. He’s rich, he’s handsome, and lives in a big house on a sprawling property. You can’t go into this movie with a cynical point of view or else you’re bound to hate it.
It’s then up to the director to have the appropriate actors to exceed the readers’ expectations and make them more than one-dimensional fluff characters. They will hopefully have a natural born chemistry together to drive the passion and fight the conflict at stake. I’ve seen plenty of these kinds of movies where there is no chemistry between the two stars. This is the first film for director Thea Sharrock, and she’s found the right leads. Emilia Clarke is completely adorable and effervescent as Lou. She makes some of Lou’s more annoying qualities tolerable despite the way Will perceives them. In terms of other genre characters, it should be noted she’s not a whiny sourpuss like Bella in Twilight. It’s a great role for Clarke to distance herself from Daeneryes on Game of Thrones. She tried that with playing Sarah Conner in Terminator Genisys, but that completely bombed. Sam Claflin is no stranger to playing literary characters as he is best known for playing Finnick in the blockbuster The Hunger Games franchise. He isn’t as memorable as Clarke is as he’s left playing the hurtful sourpuss and can’t quite work his way around that. Chemistry is still key and with the Moyes’ playful sense of humor to their interactions, it comes pretty easily for the two of them. Joining them is fellow Game of Thrones star Charles Dance and Janet McTeer as Will’s parents and Downton Abbey’s Brendan Coyle as Lou’s father.
Me Before You is a really sweet story if you can give in and go along for the romantic ride. I don’t think it will be remembered as one of the better romances of the silver screen as there are plenty of flaws along the way. That being said, it’s certainly better than a majority of the Nicholas Sparks films released in any given year. There’s great music along the way to put you in just the right mood for a tragic love story. There’s a whimsical score by Craig Armstrong (Love Actually) and select songs from X Ambassadors and Ed Sheeran. I can see how reading the book is probably better for the way this story unfolds. Loyal fans of Jojo Moyes should still approve of the film. Some days you just need a good cry, and there were plenty of tears being shed around me as the final scenes played out. I was not one of them, but it’s a rarity when I cry during a movie.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Just when you thought Nicholas Sparks killed the genre, Jojo Moyes pulls you back in.
RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS