Some people just like to cry at the movies. If you have committed to watching The Fault in Our Stars or The Notebook more than once, either endeavor an act of incomprehensible madness — then chances are you will enjoy Me Before You. And you will undoubtedly get a bit teary.
Me Before You has been adapted from a best-selling novel, and this love story comes with a bite. Despite the amusing bits (and there are many), despite the budding ardor (predictable and crowd-pleasing), despite the rarely seen and irresistible smile of Emilia Clarke (who is not allowed moments of levity as the Mother of Dragons on Game of Thrones), Me Before You is a juicy red apple of a romance with a razor blade embedded under its skin.
Clarke plays the goodhearted but unambitious Louisa Clark, who lives at home in an English village with her family and helps her working-class parents with the rent. When Lou loses her job at a bakery that’s closing, she applies for a well-paying post as a companion to wealthy, handsome and bitter quadriplegic Will Traynor (Sam Claflin, the charismatic Finnick Odair of The Hunger Games). Lou doesn’t know how to take care of a quadriplegic but learns quickly that she’s not expected to: There’s a nurse for that. Will’s tense mother (Janet McTeer) emphasizes two things: That Lou is there to keep the once-active Will company and to never, ever leave him alone for more than a few minutes.
Naturally, there’s distrust on his part and frustration on hers. The movie places less emphasis on the daunting class barrier separating them, although it underscores their differences (when Will tells Lou, “You need to broaden your horizons,” he doesn’t seem to realize that traveling the world or even to London takes money). Gradually, though, they do what people tend to do when they’re thrown together for long periods: They soften toward each other. Then Lou discovers Will’s real plan — he is determined to commit legal suicide in Sweden — what else can she do but epledge to show him that a life with her is worth living no matter the constraints?
Clarke is a large part of what makes the film as engaging as it is. Seeing her as the sartorially adventurous Lou, wearing spotted pumps, a fuzzy orange sweater and a wide grin, is startling and mesmerizing, and Claflin is an appealing leading man.
Me Before You already has incited complaints about its portrayal of quadriplegic people and for glossing over the acrimonious subject of state-assisted suicide. The film never examines that debate fully. But Me Before You is a sugar-coated romantic bauble, not a gritty documentary. Giving into its pleasures is not for everyone, but its message — to live boldly — is hard to argue.
‘Me Before You’
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, some suggestive material. 1:50. Fayette Mall, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Woodhill, Winchester.