Me Before You, 2016.
Directed by Thea Sharrock.
Starring Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Jenna Coleman, Brendan Coyle, Samantha Spiro, Matthew Lewis, Stephen Peacocke and Charles Dance.
A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralysed man she’s taking care of.
Many filmgoers’ thoughts on a new lovey-dovey film are usually met with two sets of reactions: those who cannot wait to spend a couple of hours with two mismatched souls who come together and get whisked off into the sunset; and those who want to get as far away from it as possible. Once in a while though a film of this ilk comes along and surprises even the most ardent opposer to melt the heart and tug delicately on their hardened heart-strings. Me Before You, based on the bestselling novel, is one such film.
Directed by debutant Thea Sharrock, Me Before You sees Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) star as Lou, a small rural-town girl who, when down on her luck after losing her job in the local bakery, takes a job looking after Will Trainor (Claflin, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), a successful city businessman who has been left paralysed by a traffic accident two years earlier. Entrusted with keeping an eye on him by his parents (McTeer and Dance), Lou, with her colourful wardrobe and summery outlook in tow, tries her best to breathe some life into Will’s desolated world.
Sharrock’s debut isn’t one full of expansive or indulgent shots nor does it have to be, instead it’s kept relatively simple, giving her actors breathing space to tell the story through their heartfelt performances. Similarly to last year’s extraordinary Room, the adaptation was helmed by the original author of the novel (in this case Jojo Moyes), a good decision all around as her storytelling skill and of course her familiarity with the source material help keep things focused while expanding the book’s narrative in the right places. There are a few elements that don’t quite work (Matthew Lewis’ Patrick in particular never sits quite right) and the saccharine is, as you would expect, laid on quite thick in places. Yet Me Before You is full of verve, energy, and genuine loveliness, thanks to Clarke and Claflin’s endlessly watchable chemistry.
Clarke is the film’s trump card, with easily the best performance of her still fledgling film career. No dragons or killer cyborgs in this one (the less said about the latter the better, mind you) – instead it falls on her minute shoulders to carry the film, which she does with both grace and gravitas. Lou could have easily fallen away as a ponderous annoyance, but through Clarke’s smart, focused portrayal she comes through as so much more: full of zest and sincerity, she’s resplendent throughout, infusing both Will and the film with a true heartbeat, pulsing through every single frame with her crazy wardrobe in tow. Claflin too is excellent as Will, a pitch-perfect mix of wit, sarcasm and pessimism, without ever losing his charm.
While the film does follow the well-travelled road of romantic dramas, rarely has the journey been so pleasurable and as genuinely romantic and heartfelt as this. Fuelled by Emilia Clarke’s wonderful turn and her sincere chemistry with Sam Claflin, Me Before You is a little treat and one of the genuine surprises of the year.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Scott J. Davis is Senior Staff Writer and Reporter for Flickering Myth. Follow him on Twitter