(There may be spoilers here.)
If a book becomes a number-one best seller then, you can bet somewhere someone is adapting it for the screen. Romances, dramas, and crime stories all will be snapped up and produced to gain a new cinema-based audience.
The latest weepy novel to get the adaptation treatment is Me Before You starring Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke and The Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin. Despite being filled with the standard plot and twists of the genre, the team behind this have made an enjoyable and sweet film.
Will Traynor (Claflin), is a young wealthy guy enjoying life to the full until he is hit by a motor bike. Louisa Clark (Clarke), is a local waitress who lives at home until she loses her job and must find a new one. She is offered the job of caring for Will, two years after his accident, now paralysed from the neck down. Will is bitter and un-communitive towards Louise but slowly the two bond and get to know each other. But can their relationship make Will believe he can live a full and happy life?
The film is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Jojo Moyes; adapted for the screen by Moyes herself and directed by theatre director Thea Sharrock. The film also has two female producers and is fuelled by Emilia Clarkes (and Claflin’s), star power. The team behind the film makes this a female fuelled project which is a rarity in cinema.
In terms of the narrative in the film, this is standard stuff: Boy and girl meet, are completely different, eventually bond and then fall in love. The twist in this tale is Will’s inability to deal with his disability. He believes his life is over but inspires Louisa to live hers to the full.
Despite the clichés, the film is cute without being sickly. The two stars shine onscreen and you route for Louisa and enjoy the journey the two take together. The film mixes wit and humour with sad and tragic moments making it a rollercoaster for those invested in the characters.
The film, despite its cuteness, deals with difficult subject matter. Will genuinely believes his life is not worth living in a wheelchair. His frustration at everyday life, the pain, and illness that comes with that are clear to see. The film shows both sides of this argument well despite his wishes being hard to hear. Claflin here physically and emotionally portrays the struggles of a disabled man. When we are first introduced to him he feels cold and indifferent. Slowly he opens up, despite the different tragedies that befall him throughout. You always sense his frustration at his disability but with Louisa, he becomes a character you fall for.
Some have viewed the film as an endorsement of euthanasia in cases of disability. The use of an abled-bodied actor in place of a disabled one has also meet with criticism. It is true that disabled actors have little viability on out screens which is something that must change.
Although the idea of euthanasia in Will’s case is a difficult idea, it addresses the small number of cases where people in his position do chose to end their life. No other character views Will as a burden or lacking as a person but the issues the film deals with are understandable difficult for some.
Emilia Clarke here leaves behind her ‘Mother of all Dragons’ role for something less fantasy. She portrays Louisa as cute and awkward, but kind and warm. Her character can go from funny to weepy moments with ease. At times Louisa feels overly simple (like not knowing what pesto is) and her working-class family life is ramped up for dramatic effect but this is a solid performance. Clarke also demonstrates that she has the most expressive (sometimes overly) eyebrows possible.
The comic relief comes in the form of Neville Longbottom himself Matthew Lewis. Lewis plays Patrick, Louisa’s fitness obsessed boyfriend. His complete ignorance of his girlfriend’s needs makes the audience route for Will even more. But his long rants regarding fitness to a usually unimpressed crowd makes his screen time the wittiest.
It may bear all the usual hallmarks of a romantic drama but despite its clichés, this is an enjoyable film.
Take your mum, she will love it.
ME BEFORE YOU IS OUT ON DVD AND BLU-RAY NOW!