Film Review: 'Me Before You'
Opened: 3 June 2016 (UK)
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Brendan Coyle
Director: Thea Sharrock
Producers: Alison Owen, Karen Rosenfelt
Approaching this movie I first think it’s best to acknowledge the dragon in the room. No doubt Emilia Clarke cannot be struggling to get job offers now that Game of Thrones is in its sixth season; where - unless you’ve been hiding under a rock - you will know she plays Daenerys of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of Mereen, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons. So, when you’ve done all that, what do you do next? Apparently the answer is to move to the idyllic English countryside and get away from all that blood, violence and incest by becoming a carer. There are lots of good reasons for Clarke to have taken this role (Louisa Clark) but top of the list is surely to show some range. Taking numbers and kicking ass is obviously awesome, but not if that’s all you ever do. Very quickly studios won’t touch you because they only see you as that dragon lady on GoT.
She’s not the only who has had this idea. The cast of Me Before You is populated by the co-stars many recent on screen franchises: Sam Claflin (Hunger Games), Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who), Charles Dance (also Game of Thrones) and Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter). And this movie definitely delivers a stark contrast to these big hitting titles. Quiet, personal, cute and kind, Me Before You feels like warmth from a log fire during a winter blizzard. Claflin plays William Traynor, a high achieving playboy type who is crippled in an accident. His parents hire the seemingly hapless Clark to look after him and she (eventually) excels at the job simply by virtue of her goodness and determination. The intentionally mismatched chemistry between Clarke and Claflin is sweet and their inevitable interest in one another is nicely paced. There are a few scripting moments (one in particular) that feel forced for dramatic effect. I’m not convinced these were necessary; it’s just not that kind of film.
Me Before You is more than just a ‘chick flick’ (sorry, I know, it’s a vile phrase that should be burnt to the ground with the entire works of Katherine Heigl, but there’s just no good alternative). It has a surprising amount of purpose and politics, though lovingly wrapped in the rainbows and biscuits of an English country rom com. Credit to everyone one who worked on and made this movie, life changing accidents and paralysis from the neck down are not sexy subjects. The movie does not shy away from the harsh realities facing someone who has had the world at his feet, only to then have the tables turned on them so cruelly.
A touching story, Me Before You is exactly what we expect it to be, but with a little something extra. If you don’t make the journey to the cinema to see it keep an eye out for a DVD or Netflix release because, much like the movie’s heroine, it’s easily underestimated.