The big screen adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ bestselling novel of the same name portrays the unlikely love story of Lou Clarke (Emilia Clarke) and Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). The unlikeliness of this love is not just because of the cliché ‘poor girl meets rich boy’ storyline, but also the fact that Will is severely limited physically due to a previous road accident and is considering taking his own life. Will’s deteriorating health is present throughout the storyline and this continued presence creates a predictable structure to the story with an inevitable ending. The film is saved by the Clarke and Claflin who embody two characters that break down the boundaries of class and disability to create a heartfelt and simple love story that is grounded in the reality of life.
After being made redundant, possessing few skills and still living at home, Lou Clarke is offered the unlikely job to be the carer of local celebrity Will Traynor. Will’s mother Camilla (Janet McTeer) overlooks Lou’s lack of skill and notices that her chatty and warming personality could be the key to unlock her son’s lost happiness. Clarke showcases her softer side, a drastic transformation compared to her acclaimed role in Game of Thrones. On occasion though you feel an emptiness in the performance, it is as if Clarke is trying too hard to banish the image of her more recognisable character and avoid the threat of being defined by a single role, or as I like to call it the ‘Harry Potter factor’. Her acting transformation is not aided by the film’s clothing department who cast her in an eclectic mix of vintage and retro apparel that turns her into a Bridget Jones wannabee.
Despite the often unnatural acting that comes across from Clarke, her role is one that still draws compassion. In particular the solid relationship that develops between her and Will. Claflin provides an assured performance in his ability to showcase a mix of emotions. He effortlessly switches between the unresponsive isolated man we meet at the start of the film, to the affectionate man we meet at the end who is totally in love with Lou. His early isolation is expected given the spinal injury he has suffered from a motorbike accident leaving him wheelchair bound. This misery is compounded by the loss of his jet setting adrenaline filled lifestyle and his former girlfriend marrying his best friend. Will’s transformation is the result of Clarke’s dogged and persistent work to give him his life back. After overhearing a discussion between Camilla and Will’s father Steven (Charles Dance) over Will’s wish to go to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end his life, Lou begins a crusade of trips and days out in an attempt to get Will to consider his decision. Along the way it isn’t just Lou who helps Will, but the relationship is a two way street. With his gentlemanly charm Will demonstrates to Lou what it is like to feel alive in a relationship, rather than just being loved. After ending her long-term relationship with fitness freak of a boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis) Lou and Will grow even closer.
In a final attempt to reverse his decision Lou takes Will to Mauritius for what she hopes is an eye opening trip and what his life could be like with her at his side. Despite cementing their close connection Will informs Lou, what he believes is unknown knowledge to her, that he plans on ending his life when he returns to Britain. Despite the growing relationship between the two central characters the supposedly shock decision of Will does not provide a dramatic revelation. Throughout the film, you feel the decision for Will to end his life is inevitable. The feeling of Will being a burden on his friends, family and causing the strain in his parent’s marriage has been criticised by those opposed to assisted suicide, as it suggests those who do consider ending their life receive resentment from those around them.
Despite being sat in the cinema and being surrounded by an assortment of people with tears streaming down their cheeks as the final credits played, I did not feel the same compassion. The inevitable ending to Me Before You resulted in somewhat of an anti-climactic ending. It is by no means that this film required effort and preservation to watch as it was more than pleasant and showcased a love story that showcased a controversial issue that needed spotlight. Furthermore the hope that Will would reverse his decision kept the story alive. But here lies the problem- it was pleasant rather than exceptional.