Just cracked open a bottle of wine, took five sips, collected my thoughts, and sat down to write possibly the most emotional review I’ve written this year. Oh, here’s hoping I won’t start crying again.
Me Before You is based on a book. A book that I read, and a book that made me cry somewhere in the middle, and kept me crying until the end. So I knew what I was walking into when I went to see Me Before You. What I didn’t know, was how much the page to screen adaptation added to the story. There were various story lines that were taken out from the book, but to compensate, the movie added so much more to the characters. And that, I guess, is not just thanks to the script nor the direction, but thanks to the amazing performances by Clarke, Claflin and Lewis.
Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) has just lost her job, and is looking for a new one. She doesn’t have an education, nor that much experience, but she is spirited, happy and fun. As luck would have it, that’s exactly the kind of person Will Turner’s (Sam Claflin) mother is looking for to look after her son. Will is quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, and in addition to his difficult condition, he is also bitter and rude. So when Lou walks in, Will is taken aback by her big smile, wacky outfits and a positive outlook on life. Yet, Lou is determined to break Will out of his comfort zone, which for a man like him, is too small to begin with.
Of course the relationship between Lou and Will is the main focus of the movie, and it is about the growth of that relationship. Yet, to add some dimension to the movie, Lou’s boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis) is a perfect addition to the group. He is a fitness addict, who is the complete opposite of Lou, as well as Will, but Patrick has a sensitive side. What the movie did with Patrick was, in my opinion, a lot better than what the book version was. He was more emotional, and I even felt sorry for him, though I disliked him in the book immensely. Then again, I didn’t picture him as Matthew Lewis either, so that could have been the biggest difference.
The movie, in addition to its bright and light cinematography, also had a really great soundtrack. And even though the movie had an underlying serious tone, the way it was portrayed was through joy and happiness. That was partially through Lou’s character, but also her wardrobe, the songs and the overall bright tones. The balance between the light and the dark was great, and if I’d wanted to, I could analyze various opposite elements throughout the movie. There is just so much eye for detail, and so many little things, that for the book reader, stand out.
I mentioned in the beginning that some of the stories had been taken out for the movie, by the book author herself, I might add. And a few characters were a little different due to this, and not just Patrick but others, and that’s why the movie had a completely different impact on me compared to the book. These changes were great, in my opinion, because they allowed the movie script to be cleaner. In the book, sure, they might have had a purpose, but in the movie, these plot lines would have been seen as messy and unnecessary. So frankly, I sort of like the movie version a little better due to these alterations, because the story is more clear and simplified.
Alright, my initial idea was to keep this post spoiler free, but as I heard about a controversial topic regarding Me Before You, I decided to scrap that idea. So, here comes the spoiler, stop reading this if you don’t want any spoilers:
Will dies. And no, he doesn’t die because his condition gets worse, though he is prone to illnesses and is ill more frequently as the years pass, as it is common for this condition. No, he dies because he chooses to and that choice has sparked controversy. Some say his choice was, in a lack of a better word, stupid, because he should have chosen life and Lou. Others say it was justified. I agree with the latter. Our choices are our own, and even if these choices might sadden others, if we are still able to make choices, we should have the right to do so.
Though yes, the choice to take owns life is a difficult one, and shouldn’t be made lightly. I agree that some might make the decision based on wrong reasons, but this isn’t the case for said character. Will is an interesting person, he is sophisticated and educated. Before his accident, he is also full of life and adventure. But Will is also a person who needs to be independent, and being paralyzed is something that goes against his nature. For him, his choice is easy, and even though Lou makes his life a little easier during her employment, that choice never changes. To even say or accuse him of making the wrong choice, is to say he has to stay miserable, to take away his human right to choose. And bare in mind, we are talking about a fictional character! A fictional character’s choice and yet, it still angers people and I understand.
Rough and painful choices are the hardest ones to make, yet day to day, people make them around the world. In case of our fictional character, he decided to die rather than to live in a wheelchair for his entire life. You either agree with him or you don’t, and that is fine. But don’t call it a wrong choice. Choices are subjective, and even if they feel wrong to you, they aren’t for those who make them. The message Me Before You sends is not that it’s better to end your life than to live it, it is that you are free to make your own choice. May that be life or death, it is yours to make.
So, yes, Me Before You is a romance movie with tears and laughter, but in a way, it’s also asks really difficult questions. The characters are great, the acting wonderful, and the tears are real as I continue to tear up while finishing up this review. And I didn’t even get to discuss how wonderful Lou’s character development was, and how heartbreaking it was for Will to grant her such opportunities, which is a different matter on its own. But I guess this is the end for now but I know that when I’m finally ready, I will watch this movie again and again because, like I said, it is pretty great.