Romance + disability + convention = cloyingly saccharine + Emilia Clarke = heart-warmingly sweet. That’s the formula upon which Me Before You is built. Mawkishly and expectedly drowning out its audience with old-fashioned sentimentality, but doing it with Emilia Clarke at your service, is the best way of reversing that artificial schmaltziness. It is near on impossible not to appreciate the film, even when it gets glossy and gushy, because it makes you feel, and that’s the most important aspect of Me Before You.
As deeply stirring and authentically saccharine as was expected, the film’s target audience will love it, verifiable by the amount of tears shed at screenings for Jojo Moyes’ bestselling 2012 novel. Me Before You is not as clichéd, contrived and cringe-worthy as the adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ novels are, instead offering a story that cleverly taps into the emotions of its audience in order to suppress the critically harmful commonalities that tear apart the bubble these Shangri-La romanticist tales live in.
Me Before You promises to be a clichéd but cute romance, constantly made watchable by the wonderful Emilia Clarke. She is the shining light of the entire production, hardly diverging from her real self; she seems to fully embody the character so that, at least on her part of the romance, it feels effortlessly natural. Clarke’s fumblingly awkward nature is perfect for the role, and as Sam Claflin’s Will Traynor remains stiffer than wood, Me Before You is the platform for the audience to fall in love with the ‘nice’ Emilia Clarke. Khaleesi, Queen Daenerys Targaryen, First of Her Name, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, and Protector of the Realm, I think not… Lou Clark sounds about right!
Thanks to her, the relationship feels warm and sweet, mattering to the audience because she is such an alluring personality. At the start Louisa and Will don’t see eye to eye, which is the first of many clichés, and as the film progresses, they are predictably brought closer together, forming an unlikely bond that to us isn’t empty, but superficially cinematic. Their relationship lacks the proper tissue to convince us that their union is authentic, yet the light and lovely environment it all takes place in is driven to build a connection between the two so that by the end when the moment of heartbreak comes, its impact is unquestionable.
Me Before You is first and foremost a romance, but it frivolously utilises profound topics to bring its lovebirds together. That is possibly the reason for its emotive clout, because the thought of life-altering issues destroying the possibility for life and love is a situation universally dreaded. The film raises morally complex issues such as disability and euthanasia, but never challenges them because Will’s obstinate mentality prevents it from doing so. Will is the cause of all the problems; his stubborn inflexibility keeps the film glossy and lacklustre, unable to penetrate deep into its issues but not enough to prevent Clarke from keeping the production afloat.
The main issue seems to be disability which, despite being given a nimble examination, is conventionally depicted to the point where it devolves in its representation. It doesn’t care for disability and never emphasises it as acceptable, so much so that death can be seen as healthier. It’s shown to be the worst thing on earth, as Will Traynor cannot think of anything to live for, not even the stunning Louisa Clark. It’s a sad story that generates tonnes of emotions, but for those with a disability, it’s massively misguided. Will is a healthy, able man whose past life stands in stark contrast with his stubborn, distasteful mentality in the present, leaving him with no choice but to willingly choose death over love.
Bar the two lovers, each and every single one of the supporting cast are tools that allow the story to fit into place effectively. Will’s mother, portrayed by the sombre Janet McTeer, is against his death, whilst Charles Dance for once allows his crippled son to do what he wants. Steve Peacocke is an odd addition as Will’s doctor, as he’s always so close to the proceedings by giving us a constant check-up on Will’s health. He may be medically necessary but he is in truth an unnecessary part of the film. The story and its characters have been built to shed light only on the romance, resulting in a story that delivers all the emotions the target audience will expect, but without any of the depth to sustain its extended viewing. Watch this again without the novelty of Emilia Clarke and all the errors will trickle to your head within a second.
At its crux, anyone can appreciate this film, even love it, as Emilia Clarke goes a long way to melting hearts. The flaws are predictably obvious but it manages to tug at your emotions, and essentially that is all that matters.
Wholeheartedly sentimental and thoroughly routine, Me Before You is a glossy romantic affair that relies entirely on Emilia Clarke, whose endlessly-smiling, adorably awkward nature is more than defining.
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