So I watched Me Before You…
I was actually looking forward to watching this – the romcom is a genre that is falling more and more by the wayside as studios rush to saturate our screens with the latest edition of men and women fighting in tights and capes. What’s even more depressing is that the quality of the few romcoms that we do get to see is steadily on the decline. While I do love the superhero genre, I do hope that after The Avengers and Justice League are finished saving the world, we’ll get to see two people falling in love in an entertaining film.
Okay, basic plot: Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark (Emilia Clarke) is a hyper-talkative, irrationally optimistic sprite of a woman who finds herself in need of a new job. She finds employment as caregiver to Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) – a former banker and adrenaline junkie who has recently become paralysed and disinterested with life as a whole. Will’s icy demeanour often clashes with Lou’s spunk but the two eventually develop a friendship and a deep bond. Will is however unable to live with the perpetual reality of his paralysis and wishes to end his life; this forces Lou to embark on a mission to show Will how great life can be. As the two grow ever-closer, Lou begins to wonder if her love is enough to help Will rediscover the value of his life.
I found this film to be far too cerebral. I’m in no way suggesting that this film is too intelligent or thought-provoking but rather that it’s quite emotionless. As I watched the movie, I could understand what emotions the writer and director were trying to elicit in me; but there was no point in the film that I actually felt said emotions. This film feels like it was constructed with a mallet and heavy nails instead of a fine brush and gentle touch. The scenes feel crude and heavy-handed and you’re persistently beaten over the head with what emotion you should be feeling. The film lacks subtlety and finesse.
No more is this more evident than in the film’s soundtrack. On paper it seems to have many fine selections – with Ed Sheeran featuring heavily. Now Ed Sheeran is a real talent and you would think that his particular lyrical and vocal style would suit this film; unfortunately the songs used feel tacked on and unnatural. It is as if the songs were chosen for their pop-appeal instead of their emotional resonance. The film is not well constructed and these flaws stop it from feeling like a harmonious production.
The largest problem I had with this film was the love story between Sam Claflin’s Will Traynor and Emilia Clarke’s Lou. This is partly because of some poor acting from the two leads but mostly because of some lazy writing by Jojo Moyes (who also wrote the book that this film is based on). The two lead characters are incredibly one-dimensional and are never allowed to develop as individuals. I always feel that the key to a successful love story is having two people that we like – independent of each other – and want to see end up together. Will and Lou completely lack an identity outside the confides of this story which makes them feel like nothing more than plot devices.
Now with regards to the chemistry between Claflin and Clarke, there was something there but it definitely was not romantic. I have to blame the writing for this again because of how poorly their journey to romance is laid out; but the two felt more like brother-and-sister than actual lovers. There’s no heat whenever the two are on-screen together and watching them kiss was like watching two blocks of ice bump into each other. Claflin really doesn’t have much to do – literally, he spends 99.9% of the movie in a chair. He sells the idea of the stern, apathetic Will Traynor well but doesn’t do enough to make the character charming or endearing at all. I’m still skeptical about Emilia Clarke’s acting ability. There are moments where she perfectly portrays the pluckiness of Lou and her energy is often infectious; but when it comes to the more dramatic scenes, she falls flat.
Overall, Me Before You isn’t really worth the time or effort. It could have been a daring film that inspired a lot of debate if it had chosen to fully attack its controversial subject matter but instead it prods too gently and never delivers on its potential. There are better date movies out there and I suggest you watch them instead of this. 6/10