The Bock’s Office: ‘Me Before You’ a sweet but strained story
June 9, 2016
With a cast of people who have appeared in "Game of Thrones," "The Hunger Games," "Harry Potter," "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Terminator" and other fantasy and sci-fi franchises, you might expect "Me Before You" to be a little less than grounded, but wizards and White Walkers are a cinch to believe in, above the idea that a tragic romance will work out in the end.
If you go…
"Me Before You," rated PG-13
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 110 minutes
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer and Charles Dance
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
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After being handed her walking papers from the waitress position she's held for many years, Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) is badly in need of a new line of work. None of the jobs she takes seem to work out, but with a sense of desperation, she interviews to be a caretaker for a wealthy family in her village.
Despite having no medical training or virtually any relevant experience, she's hired with little hesitation to look after Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), who has been rendered a quadriplegic after an accident, forcing him to live at his parents' (Janet McTeer, Charles Dance) estate.
With a full-time nurse (Steve Peacocke) handling most of the duties, Louisa has little responsibility beyond interacting with Will and attempting to boost his spirits, a chore in itself, thanks to the wheelchair-bound young man's frustration with his physical handicap and annoyance at having to be babysat.
Little by little, Louisa's personality gets through to Will as they start to strike up a friendship, though the closer she gets to him, the harder it hits when she learns he doesn't intend to stick around long.
After seeing her as The Mother of Dragons for years, it's odd to see Clarke as someone so ungainly and unpolished yet entirely likable. You know Lou's type — big dreams she doesn't dare follow, next to no self-confidence and a contentment to settle for a small life, her one outlet of expression; her flashy fashion sense.
Similar to his character, Claflin takes some warming up to as Will but ultimately wins us over as a former dynamo of the business world with a rich athletic life and gorgeous girlfriend (Vanessa Kirby) who now only has memories and a spinal cord that's beyond repair, his only amusement coming from a tasteless impression of Christy Brown from "My Left Foot."
Dance is great as Will's dad — who couldn't be further from his signature role as Tywin Lannister — and McTeer is just as good as his mum, hoping that the wispy free spirit she's employed can convince her son to get back to his old self.
Matthew Lewis likewise plays against type as Louisa's boyfriend, Patrick, a personal trainer and triathlete forever in training who makes plenty of time for running yet doesn't enjoy the idea of his paramour spending too much time with the rich guy who can't walk.
If you have to be paralyzed in most of your body, there are worse places to do it than a property that includes a castle. The bucolic charm of the English countryside offsets an otherwise very modern story based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, who also provided the screenplay, which largely ignores the class differences between its leads and the marital strife of the Trainors but tries to focus its efforts elsewhere.
We're constantly reminded that in this day and age the world is wide open for people similar to Will compared to years past, but that's matched by his attitude that a life spent in a chair isn't one he wants to continue and won't be talked out of an endgame that involves euthanasia.
There's little room for debate on the ethics of the issue — other than most everyone near him demanding to know how he can be so selfish — yet, it's when his bond with Louisa drifts into an all-too-obvious love story that it becomes saccharine, though kudos go to Clarke and Claflin for making it work onscreen regardless.
"Me Before You" doesn't stand as an example of a complex topic in an everyday setting, nor does it succeed in being a proper romance, though it's not meant to be the latter anyway. Where it succeeds is being a life-is-worth-living narrative that, flaws and all, is entirely heartfelt and genuine.
Lou's bumblebee tights don't hurt either.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.