Me Before You

Posted on June 2, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Copyright 2016 New Line Cinema
Copyright 2016 New Line Cinema
It’s all about the eyebrows. Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) has gamine-like “natural” eyebrows ideal for expressing wonder, hurt feelings, and enthusiasm, and Sam Claflin (“Hunger Games”) has circumflex-like eyebrows ideal for expressing skepticism, irony, and stoicism. All four eyebrows get an extensive workout in “Me Before You,” based on the international best-seller by JoJo Moyes about Louisa Clark (Clarke), a high-spirited, warm-hearted pixie of a girl, just laid off from her job behind the counter at a bakery, and Will Traynor (Claflin), a once-energetic, once-successful finance type from a wealthy family who is now paralyzed below the shoulders following an accident. Lou is hired by Will’s mother (the redoubtable Janet McTeer) as a “companion” for Will, a position that only exists in novels about warm-hearted young women sent to castles with names like Thornhill that have eligible but tortured men waiting to have their hearts warmed. Will has an Aussie aide who handles the icky physical stuff (Stephen Peacocke), so Lou is there to bring cheer to Will, who has no intention of being cheered. And did I mention he lives in a literal castle?

Lou’s family depends on her for money, because her father has been laid off (due, as we will find, to the financial engineering of Will’s one-time protege). And so she accepts the job with no real understanding of caring for a severely disabled person and stays in it even when he refuses to speak to her or to accept her many offers of a cup of tea. Ultimately, through a combination of ennui, frustration, and the impossibility of resisting the charm of Lou’s kindergarten teacher meets Lisa Frank and Hello Kitty-style attire, Will begins to thaw a little. The immense pressure of what he has lost inspires him to want more for her than she wants for herself, and he feels impelled to show her that, even with a castle in its midst, her little town cannot be enough for all she should want from life. Did I mention that his name is Traynor?

This is not a movie that leaves anything to the imagination. Just in case you were not sure of that, Lou’s boyfriend Patrick (one-time Neville Longbottom Matthew Lewis) is Will’s polar opposite, a fitness instructor and “motivational coach” who thinks a few more reps can solve any problem. And just in case that isn’t enough, there’s a brief encounter with the divine Joanna Lumley to spell it all out for Louisa and for us as well.

Okay, so no surprises here, especially if you’ve read the book. Bring a handkerchief, maybe two. But Clarke and Claflin have palpable chemistry, and we are no more able to resist Lou than Will is. As she takes him back out into the world, she thinks it is for him, but he knows it is for her, and we find that the real hero of the story is Will’s, well, will.

SPOILER ALERT: Some groups have raised concerns about the film’s portrayal/advocacy of assisted death, adapting the movie’s #liveboldly tagline to urge movies to portray disabled people who are active and engaged.

Parents should know that this film includes non-explicit sexual references and situation, mild language, severe injury and discussion of assisted death.

Family discussion: Should Will have changed his mind? What will Louisa do next?

If you like this, try: “Love Story” and “A Walk to Remember”

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Based on a book Illness, Medicine, and Health Care Romance

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