Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin star in Me Before You. Making a beloved novel into a film is never an easy task. Even when the author adapts their own work for the screen, the limits of time and budget make it virtually impossible to translate every facet and nuance of the tale onto the big screen. The challenge is made more difficult when the resolution of the story is known to much of the audience before the opening credits roll. These were the obstacles facing Thea Sharrock, making her big screen directorial debut.
“Louisa Clark” (Clarke) is a 26 year old girl in a small town in the English countryside where she’s spent more than six years working in a cafe when she is suddenly laid off. The cafe is closing down. With no other job skills and a family situation that requires her to contribute to the household she winds up at the local job center. That leads her to the palatial residence of the Traynor family. “Steven” (Charles Dance) and “Camilla” (two time Oscar nominee Janet McTeer) are the parents of “Will Traynor” (Claflin) who lives in the annex. Will was a very successful businessman and avid skier and mountain climber who was injured when he was struck by a motorcycle. Now he is a “quad” paralyzed below the neck. He cannot even feed himself. The Traynors are in need of a caregiver for Will to work for a fixed period of six months. The money is excellent and “Lou” (as she prefers to be called) is surprised when Camilla offers her the job.
Will won’t open up to Lou and asks her to make a deal with him where she will be uncharacteristically un-chatty with him. However he opens up to her a little bit after some time but then Lou learns two secrets about her charge. One is something she sees with her own eyes. The other is that Will promised to give his parents six months before journeying to Switzerland to end his life through Dignitas.
When Lou overhears this dark news she wants to quit, but her family situation just won’t permit that. So she sets out to convince Will to change his mind through taking him out of the castle to places where he might learn to enjoy life again. Aided and abetted by Camilla and by Will’s physical therapist “Nathan” (Stephen Peacocke), Lou is willing to go almost anywhere and do almost anything to persuade Will to live.
The camera is madly in love with Emilia Clarke. That and the strong chemistry between the leads are the best parts of this film. Definitely a date movie.
Spoilers follow although since the material involved is well-known, are they really spoilers? Disability advocates have criticized the film, as they did the novel for the message that quads are a burden on society. The problem with their criticism is that no one, including Will, makes that claim. He wants to end his own eternal pain.