“Me Before You” Review (***)

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Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke star in “Me Before You.”

Director Thea Sharrock’s film adaptation of Jojo Moye’s 2012 best-selling novel doesn’t quite meet the expectations that its textual counterpart set. The simultaneous depth and quirk that filled up every inch of the novel’s two primary characters, Louisa and Will, didn’t translate between the two mediums. Where the novel was round, the film was flat, and truly it’s as simple as that. That’s my primary critique. It’s not a bad movie, it’s really not. Jojo Moyes adapted her own work and included just enough to capture the essence of the plot and also created characters substantial enough to carry the weight—both emotional and physical—of the story. Despite the disparity between the two mediums, however, it’s unarguable that this movie will be a 2016 hit. Sam Claflin as the handsome but ruthless quadriplegic Will Traynor, and Emilia Clarke as the effervescent, hopelessly-optimistic caretaker are perfect. They’re mesmerizing on screen, and the chemistry could spark a fire even on the mistiest of nights. They’re stunning and they make their acting, particularly the emotionally straining scenes, effortless and right. They’re genuine and endearing. Additionally, Emilia Clark has, uncontestably, the most expressive eyebrows in Hollywood.

Some basic an essential plotpoints: Lou, played by Clarke (the Mother of Dragons in “Game of Thrones”), loses her job at the coffee shop. She goes to a temp agency, and they assign her to the Traynors—local celebrities, basically. They own the castle that sits in the center of town and are rather wealthy. Mr. Traynor takes to Lou immediately, but Mrs. Traynor is a bit icier. Then there’s Will—he’s an onion. He’s hard and angry (righteously so), but Lou works with him, and they find a lovely type of symbiosis. SPOILERS now: Lou soon discovers that the only reason she was hired was, basically, to show Will that life is worth it. It was her job, whether she knew it or not, to convince him that being alive is better than the alternative. Once Lou learns this, she works harder than she’s ever worked at anything to convince Will to change his mind. She even goes so far as to fall in love with him. Don’t worry, he falls in love with her, too. And then… he dies. There’s tension and crying and goodbyes, of course, but that’s the gist of it.

“Me Before You” sits comfortably on the shelf beside films like “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and, basically, any Nicholas Sparks movie. It’s emotionally draining, so be prepared for that. What I can really appreciate about “Me Before You” is it’s not preachy or overly righteous in tone; it’s earnest and sincere (in spite of its hyperbolic life-or-death nature). This is a movie, at a ground level, about euthanasia; that’s what it all comes down to: whether or not Will will go through with it, whether or not he’ll end his life (with assistance in a warm and softly-lit room) despite his love for Louisa and her love for him.

This film may not be deserving of three stars; though really, if I’m being honest, it might be closer to two and a half stars. I know this isn’t a book blog, but while we’re talking stories, I’d highly encourage you to check out the book. It’s rich in the way the film isn’t. If you’re looking for a sensationalized love story where love, in a shocking twist, isn’t enough, this is your movie. It is good; it really is. Also, if you do go to see this in the theatres, it’s probably best to bring tissues.

3 out of 5 stars.
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