Took me awhile to write this review because I’m a lazy slug. If Me Before You is still playing when I post this, great! If not, consider this a review of the forthcoming DVD/Internet download.
Me Before You is the first romance of the summer, at least that’s what I thought before going to the theater.
It turns out that the romance portrayed in the trailers is only a small part of the movie. The real conflict is assisted suicide.
Our main character is Louisa Clark, played by Emilia Clarke, who is let go from her waitressing job and must find something else to help support her poor family.
Louisa finds work at the wealthy Traynor estate taking care of the Traynor’s adult quadriplegic son, Will.
Will was once an investment banker with lots of wealthy friends, a hot girlfriend, and a thirst for adrenaline-pumping activities like skiing, skydiving, and parasailing.
Will becomes a quadriplegic when a motorcycle hits him while he was jaywalking and talking on his cell phone.
Two years later Will is able to talk and move his fingers a little but that’s it. His friends have abandoned him. He lives in constant pain due to the complications of his condition. He is routinely hospitalized with life threatening pneumonia. All of this leads Will to the decision to undergo assisted suicide.
Will’s mother is against this for obvious reasons. Will agrees to give her six months to convince him otherwise and if she can’t, to say her goodbyes.
Enter Louisa! Will’s mother hires her not to take care of Will, he already has a nurse for that, but to cheer him up and show him that life is worth living.
Louisa develops a friendship with Will that grows into love.
The movie is unfortunately lacking in a lot of the things that make a good romance though.
First of all, romances are often framed as a choice between the audience’s favorite and the “wrong person.”
Louisa’s choice of Will over her old boyfriend is practically ignored. Will is just so clearly better except for the disability that its no contest.
Will’s choice is a little harder to turn into a romance. Will can be in a relationship with Louisa or he can commit suicide. How romantic…
The romance is also lacking in physical passion (obviously). There is no consummation of their love beyond a kiss. It’s simply not possible for Will to go further.
The movie was, however, a good drama and dealt with suicide in a realistic way.
People commit suicide for a number of reasons, but I believe the unifying reason is that they’d rather be dead than be in their current situation, whether that’s feeling sad, or empty, or terrified, or, in Will’s case, trapped.
Will explains that he wants to end his life because he cannot bring himself to change who he is.
He is Will the Investor! Will the Skydiver! Will the Snowboarder! Will the Daredevil!
If he can’t be those things, then he’s nothing.
Louisa and Will’s family hope that Will can change his perception of himself. Maybe he can be Will the Dictation Writer, or Will the Quadriplegic Advocate, or even return to being Will the Investor.
And ultimately Will decides…
HAHA! Just kidding, I’m not going to spoil the ending for you.
Having some personal experience with the topics explored in Me Before You I think its fair to say that it accurately portrays why someone would consider suicide and how that open decision could affect that person’s loved ones.
If you’re looking for such a cathartic exploration of this topic or just want to see Emilia Clarke waggle her eyebrows around like a crazy Chinese lunchlady, then this is the movie for you. If not… I’d recommend skipping Me Before You. It is many good things, but it is not a romance as the trailer might have you believe.