Falling in love with someone’s potential; but not actually them. That’s how Nicole Iliagoueva felt watching the romantic drama Me Before You.
Ableist and cliche is how this movie was described to me, so it’s understandable that I walked into the cinema with low expectations. But as loyal fans of Emilia Clarke, my best friend and I decided to go through the effort of purchasing pricey tickets anyway. If it proved to be a disappointing experience, at least we could angrily rant to each other about how disappointing it was.
Director Thea Sharrock adapts Jojo Moyes’ novel about small-town girl Louisa (Emilia Clarke), who is hired as a caregiver for brooding quadriplegic Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) to help him rejuvenate his zest for life.
Clarke swaps her boss-ass bitch role as Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons in Game of Thrones, for a sensitive role as Louisa. While her embodiment of Lousia with her big smile, hearty laugh and delicate furrow of the brow was believable, the one-dimensional characterisation did not do her any justice. Same goes for Claflin, who took my heart and cut it up into tiny pieces as the loveable Finnick in The Hunger Games. But here, his stone-cold demeanour makes it hard to connect with his character, at least in the first half of the film. His acting shines, however, in an emotional scene where he wakes in sweats, consumed by pain as he waits for Louisa to come to his aid, capturing the helplessness and vulnerability associated with not being able to control your body.
As Louisa is busy coming to Will’s aid, her relationship with her longtime boyfriend is on the rocks. Which is where a wild Matthew Lewis appears, barely recognisable in his first role since playing Neville in Harry Potter. He has ditched his magic wand for a pair of tight sports shorts, in the jealous and self-indulgent role of Patrick, a character too consumed with his career as a personal trainer to realise that his relationship with Louisa has reached its expiry date.
It seems the directorial team decided to cast attractive leads and bring them together in a flavourless PG romance. Sadly, their acting skills were not enough to save the movie.
What did make the film more vibrant was stylist Jill Taylor’s choice of vintage-inspired clothing for Clarke: clashing patterns, colourful beanies, scarves and a pair of bumblebee tights. A particularly aesthetically pleasing scene, which felt like it was taken out of Pretty Woman, is of Louisa and Will when they attend a classical music concert. Clarke dresses in a 50s’ pinup red dress with a plunging neckline and matching lipstick, while Claflin looks debonair in a classic suit with a fanciful bow tie.
Despite anticipating a negative theme of ableism in the movie, I saw Will wanting to end his life as a reality for many disabled people, rather than a generalisation or encouragement for others to do the same.
But in terms of the movie being cliche, that expectation was not lifted, one of the things especially baffling me was the soundtrack. While I love Ed Sheeran, it felt like the sound director looked up “Indie Playlist” on Spotify, without giving much thought into whether a song suited the scene.
As the credits start to roll, my best friend and I get up from our seats, carrying a box of tissues that we didn’t end up using and an empty box of popcorn that proved to be a more enjoyable experience than the movie itself. People come to the cinema to escape the everyday, yet I didn’t feel emotionally invested enough to get lost in this world of familial and romantic love and loss. But hey, at least I got to see the Mother of Dragons in action. — Nicole Iliagoueva
Top photo from Me Before You official page.