Spoilers for the Film will follow
Despite reading about the controversy surrounding Me Before You as well as seeing a number of unfavourable views I still went into it with an open mind, as I always try to do with any Film. Yet, even before the much-criticized ending, I found it to be extremely grating, the saccharine, overbearingly quirkiness of the ideal Britain it represented would often make me cringe.
The problem starts with the characters. I have all the time in the world for Emilia Clarke, her personality is endearing and charming when on chat shows and the like and her role in Game of Thrones is strong and engaging.
However, here her director has told her to go over the top with quirky mannerisms, relentless chipperness and bizarre face movements. Her face never stops moving, every shot shows a mix of jittery ticks and a facial dexterity to make Jim Carrey seem positively stony in comparison.
On more than one occasion I found myself to be facepalming to avoid watching her eyebrows raise up and down like a broken drawbridge. I know this sounds harsh and I promise I absolutely love Emilia Clarke but it’s this weird character choice that is just the beginning for a Film that completely misses the mark in setting a tone.
There’s a very bright, British pop music feel to it, every other scene peppered with a song that wouldn’t sound out of place in an X-Factor finale and the love story is played with such big broad strokes that it resembles the sob story segments the contestants always seem to get during the auditions.
I’m honestly not against love stories either. I count Love Actually as one of my favourite Films and It’s the cheesy romantic gestures that made me fall in love with How I Met Your Mother. Yet, presented here, the tone is all off, clashing loudly with the dramatic meat of the story.
Sam Claflin fairs not much better, his performance stuck on moody stares and suave businessman, occasionally, like Clarke, only getting real emotion when pushed to do so. The drama of the Film, Will’s paralysis and subsequent choices provide for some poignancy, no doubt, but it’s presented completely in the wrong context.
I don’t doubt that there were good intentions, the actors all play it with earnestness and the director wants to make it resonate, yet it comes across badly when it begins to portray disability with some of the edges shaved off.
The paraplegic Will is rich, living in his newly converted home with his rich parents and multiple carers, yet, despite it all, he wants to die. Despite the best efforts of Emilia Clarke’s Lou, the primary provider for her poor, but never struggling family, Will chooses to die.
The messages are muddled. The film tells you to appreciate life, instead opting for Will to inspire Lou to live a better life instead of choosing to live himself. She brings him the most happiness he’s ever felt yet he can’t carry on as his ‘old’ self.
Similarly ‘Me Before You’ ignores most of the struggle of his everyday life, attempting to make it into something brighter and shinier, instead of something real, and it just jars.
It gets by, coasting along on the excellent performances of Will’s parents (Janet McTeer and Charles Dance) who uncover the Films very thinly attempted debate on assisted suicide. This is brought up, only once more as a tricky subject when Lou’s mother (Samantha Spiro) likens it to murder. Despite being a subject too big for the Film to handle, it is done so nonetheless.
Aside from this, the rest of the Film is unsteady on its feet, the supporting cast rarely shining. I was surprised to see Jenna Coleman and Matthew Lewis, the former being a little too perfect and shiny, her performance coming across like she belongs in theatre and the latter doing a fine job as an asshat of a character.
Add in a bizarre fairy godmother style cameo for Joanna Lumley and the cast is barely memorable beyond the few key roles.
Elsewhere, the cinematography is elegant and provides a number of beautiful images, complimented by the wonderful locations, which can’t be matched by the editing which at times cuts all too swiftly and disjointedly whilst some of the shots are awkwardly composed.
All in all, whilst I think Emilia Clarke is a great actress, her performance here is the perfect summation of what’s wrong with the Film as a whole. Quirky, far too jolly for its own good and rarely cutting into the dramatic meat.
The end left a lot of people in the audience in tears but I was so unconvinced by the choices of the lead character and the writer that it felt like it was simply pandering to get an emotional reaction. I suspect good intentions but the results are as old fashioned and dated as they come, the very white, upper-class community not at all representative of genuine people living with disabilities.
If they had got their portrayal correctly it may have worked but add an often unbearable sweetness to the top and you should probably see something else instead.