Me Before You Review
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Ever since I started this blog, I've tried to show just how open-minded I am when it comes to cinema. I like all genres and I give pretty much everything a fair chance. I take pride in leaving my baggage and biases at the door. Sometimes it is difficult, but I give everything a fair shot, I need to and I have to. There is no way to run a more successful blog about anything if you aren't going to go to everything with a clear mind and heart. Sure, there are genres I like more than most, and there are some genres I can't stand.
I have never been much of a romance fan. I don't like it because its too lovey-dovey or because I would feel like less of a man if I liked romance movies. In fact, there are several good romance movies out there. I love films like "(500) Days of Summer," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "10 Things I Hate About You," "Moulin Rouge!" and "Before Sunrise." I love romance movies that have a slither of realism in them, that aren't just the same Hallmark card after another. Sadly, I feel too many movies in this genre are all the same. They feel artificial, engineered as if there is so little to say in the genre, when there is plenty. Every romance movie just feels like a Nicholas Sparks novel these days, and in fact, I feel like they all are.
I didn't know what to except when my girlfriend and I sat down to view "Me Before You," but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. "Me Before You" definitely isn't a Nicholas Sparks type affair, despite what marketing may tell you. This is an elegant motion picture, filled with exquisite performances by a wonderful cast of characters. This isn't a romance movie that jams its themes down your throat, even though the movie feels like it could do that at any moment. Its actually kind of amazing how "Me Before You" plays with expectations, then completely burns those expectations to the ground. Funny, because in the end, burning down those expectations is what lead to my problems with the film.
Sam Clafin plays William Traynor a successful business seller and buyer who lives a lavish lifestyle in the UK. One fateful day, he is hit by a motorcyclist, which paralyzes him from the neck down. He is confined to a wheelchair, and can only move his thumbs, which barely work themselves. Meanwhile, we are also introduced to Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke), he bubbly personality who recently loses her job. She works to support her poor family and needs to get another job fast. Thankfully, at a local career-center, she finds work as a caregiver for William Traynor. Traynor's parents hire Louisa. At first, Lousia and William can't really stand each other. But, as these movies go, they eventually get to know each other, like each other, teach each other a life lesson, and then eventually come to love each other. (Despite Louisa having a boyfriend played by Matthew "Neville Longbottom" Lewis).
Sound like the typical romance fair? On paper it sure does. But the way the film unfolds feels organic and authentic. It helps that the film is brought to life by two stunning leads. Clafin and Clarke do incredible work together. We believe in their relationship, they make it real. I loved Clafin in "The Hunger Games," and I figured he'd be great here. While there is a only a mere a hint of Finnick in his performance, this feels positively fresh. And how was I not going to like Emilia Clarke? I would bow before the Mother of Dragons any day. (Just read my review of "Terminator: Genesys") Its an cleverly written script for the most of the running time, and like I said it plays with expectations we usually have with these types of films. The entire cast is very good. Not only are Clafin and Clarke good, but the entire supporting cast is good. There are wonderful performances by Matthew Lewis, Janet McTeer, Jenna Coleman, Steve Peacock and Charles Dance. Oh yes, Tywin Lannister shows up in this, and if you've ever wondered how he'd interact with Khaleesei, well it wouldn't have looked like this but the thought did put a smile on my face.
The romance genre is prone to being tearjerkers, but "Me Before You" really starts having problems when you find out just how depressing an ending this movie is going to have. You see, William Traynor is bound to his wheelchair, he no longer works, he's in incredible pain, the woman he was in love with marries his best friend, he can't really do anything. He finds no need to really live anymore, but gives his family six more months of life. It is Louisa's duty to change Traynor's mind and the whole movie revolves around Louisa showing Traynor just how much of a life you can live despite having an unfortunate, unplanned disability. Its not enough though, and Traynor ends up dying in the end.
The movie keeps setting up the illusion that Traynor will change his mind, but no such luck. The big theme of the story is that you must live your life to the fullest, never hesitate to travel everywhere, laugh too hard, and be yourself. While that is a remarkable and positive outlook on life, it puts a downer on the whole thing as the film ends with Louisa traveling to Paris by herself once Traynor dies. Yes, I get it. Its a realistic approach, and I give massive credit for that. But I go to the movies to be entertained, and I don't find much entertainment in feeling like crap leaving the theater. And yes, if you were to go over my entire track record, I have liked some very sad, very dark movies. But even the "Hotel Rwanda's" and the "Room's" and the "No Country for Old Men's" and the "Boy In The Striped Pajama's" had a small beacon of light at the end of the dark tunnel. "Me Before You" is just sad.
But any romance movie that chooses realism over melodrama is good in my book. I think people will find more to like with "Me Before You" compared to your average romance film. It has a huge host of great actors who keep things lively. It just falls a little shy of greatness, sinking in the weight of its own expectation.
FINAL GRADE: B