By Jack Dignan
Me Before You, surprisingly, is a film that hasn't had a lot of buzz about it. While nobody shut up about films like The Fault in Our Stars, which I expected to have a similar fan base, I'd hardly heard anybody talking about this film. Granted, The Fault In Our Stars is a much, much better movie, but Me Before You has, apparently, been out in the US for almost two weeks now. I've seen very few trusted reviewers review this movie, and nobody I've talked to overseas has seen it. Why? I honestly don't know as Me Before You is a charming little movie that seems as though it should have more fans than it actually does.
Based on the book by Jojo Moyes (and written for screen by her too), Me Before You follows the story of Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke), an enthusiastic young woman in search of a new job. Despite being completely inexperienced, Lou applies to take care of a recently paralysed man, Will Traynor (Sam Clafin), who is incredibly arrogant and reluctant to receive her help. But Lou finds a way to get to him, trying to make his life as happy as it can possibly be, and in doing so, the two start to realise they may just have feelings for one another.
If I'm being perfectly honest, I don't mind movies like this. They can be, from time to time, rather endearing. Some are utter crap, don't get me wrong, but there's the odd one here and there that just hits all the right notes. Me Before You is not one of those, but it does, however, hit just enough right notes for it to be a good movie. Not a great one, but a good one. Sweet, earnest and funny, this movie does a surprisingly large amount of things right.
It's a touching tale of a bond between two people, and no, that bond isn't always romantic. In fact, for a good chunk of this movie, the two have absolutely no romantic interest in each other whatsoever, and while the trailers do lead you to believe otherwise, I don't even think they went on a single date in this movie. While this could turn some people away who were hoping for a full on love story, I didn't mind it. It's not a super romantic film, despite using some romance conventions, and I really liked that aspect of it.
I think it's safe to say that I will officially watch anything Emilia Clarke does, even if that does happen to be a mediocre Terminator movie. She's a bouncy, cute and excited actress who always gives it her all, and her performance here, while not on the same level as her performance in Game of Thrones, is extremely likeable. She breathes a breath of fresh air into this film that could just as easily have been utterly terrible, and her chemistry with Sam Clafin is nearly unbeatable. Their scenes together are electric, even with a really weird and out of place scene involving their rejection to have lunch at a restaurant.
The thing is, when dealing with a topic as sensitive as this one, they don't always dwell in the realm of realism, and while I certainly don't want every film I watch to be realistic, it does, from time to time, feel manipulative and offensive, especially in some of the more sincere moments. They don't earn your sadness, they guilt trip you into it, and they do so in a slightly insensitive way, along with many other insensitivities. They mean well, I know that, and it's rather sweet from time to time, but I just couldn't help but feel this way.
Ignoring the offensive and unrealistic components of the movie, if you look at the narrative of the film, you've seen it all before. Every plot beat, twist or subplot has been done to death, and everything can be seen a mile away. But no matter how predictable it can be, and it can be pretty damn predictable, I was mildly entertained by it. Is it something I'm going to go buy on blu-ray? Not a chance. Will I watch it on TV one night? Maybe, if I'm bored. Was it a decent way to spend two hours of my life? Absolutely.
To sum up, Me Before You is a sweet and touching romance movie that doesn't really feel all that romantic. While it's led by two great and likeable performances, the narrative can be predictable and insensitive at times, dragging the overall film down.