Wow, a weepy romance story that doesn't make you want to gag --- who knew? Emilia Clarke, the very sexy queen, a.k.a. Mother of Dragons from "Game of Thrones", and Sam Claflin, the doll baby from "The Hunger Games" films, star in "Me Before You", based on the bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes.
Claflin plays the very hunky Will Traynor, a young virile banker with a beautiful girlfriend Alicia (Vanessa Kirby), and the entire world within reach --- until he is struck by a motorcycle and left as a quadraplegic. Now he resides at his parents' countryside estate outside of London, and his mother Camilla (Janet McTeer) is desperately seeking a caregiver for him.
Louisa Clark (Clarke) has recently been let go from her waitress job and her family really needs for her to work. Her father Bernard (Brendan Coyle, "Downton Abbey") has been unemployed, so Louisa --- or Lou --- must find employment quickly. She answers Camilla's advertisement for a caregiver, and is hired on the spot. She's totally unaware what she's up against with sullen Will, but she's quirky enough to give it a go.
Directed by Thea Sharrock with a screenplay by Moyes --- who better --- "Me Before You" could have sunk into a maudlin catastrophe, but it does not. Clarke may smile a bit too broadly at times, but her face is totally infectious. And that is what makes "Me Before You" work.
Have you not ever known someone like Lou? A truly happy person who is willing to do anything to bring a spark of life into someone else's dreary existence? This is, for me, the crux of this film. Lou is determined to brighten Will's days --- with her crazy outfits and joyful attitude. And I fell for her --- and so does Will --- hook, line and sinker.
I am exhausted by critics who cannot be moved by a decent movie about love. Is "Me Before You" perfect? No. Sharrock is guilty of some heavy handedness, but the unique chemistry between Clarke and Claflin is undeniable. When they finally kiss, people in our screening audience applauded. And I had to agree --- it was worth the wait.
The cast is exceptional. Clarke imbues Lou with just the right amount of curiosity, fun and empathy. She truly carries the film. And Claflin is in a predicament --- whatever he does will seem as overacting or worse. But
his final scene with Clarke is a memorable movie moment. Yes, it's a tear-jerker, but so what?
"Me Before You" is a chaste love story, a true rarity these days. It's a film you can see with the entire family, and one that you can watch --- and will be watching --- over and over again. What's so wrong with that?
Opinion: See It Now!
When they hand out little boxes containing a travel pack of Kleenex tissues as you enter the theatre, it's pretty clear the movie you're about to see is a proverbial tear-jerker. But "Me Before You", starring the Mother of Dragons ("Game of Thrones") Emilia Clarke, tugs at your emotions without being sentimental, mushy, maudlin or corny. It's a beautifully conceived story, wonderfully acted and well written. It is so affecting that I find myself thinking about it the day after.
Based on her own novel, Jojo Moyes wrote the screenplay, and Thea Sharrock, in her feature directing debut, has assembled an extraordinary cast that will spellbind even the most jaded of audiences. Starring opposite Ms. Clarke is Sam Claflin as a daredevil/extreme sports enthusiast who is almost completely paralyzed after a freak motorcycle accident. Clarke plays Lou Clark, an inexperienced caregiver to Claflin's Will Traynor, the son of wealthy parents Camilla (Janet McTeer) and Stephen (Charles Dance).
Will has complete movement of his head, and part of one hand. His brain is as sharp as ever, evidenced by his many witticisms. But he rarely laughs, as his regular trainer Nathan (Stephen Peacocke) attests. Until, that is, Clark (Will never calls her anything but her last name) gets under his skin like nobody else
Parts of the movie are quite predictable. We know Lou will eventually shave Will's unruly beard, to purposefully reveal Claflin's movie star face and million-dollar smile. We also know the pair will eventually fall for each other, but will it be enough to dissuade Will from seeking assisted suicide, legal in Switzerland?
That's the heart of "Me Before You", but getting to the finale is quite a lot of fun, watching the two stars verbally spar with each other. These are two characters that are easy to root for, and we do. The rest of the cast is superb. No one overplays their roles. That includes Lou's father, Bernard (Brendan Coyle, Bates on "Downton Abbey"), her mother Josie (Samantha Spiro), her sister Treena (Jenna Coleman), and particularly her boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis), a performance that could have turned cartoonish when he realizes his long-time girlfriend is falling for a near quadriplegic. But Lewis doesn't fall into that trap, a tribute to the writing as much as his own performance. McTeer and Dance are simply pros who credibly display the anguish they feel for their son.
Clarke is adorable and sincere, Claflin is handsome and heartbreaking. The two are involved in one memorable scene after another. In a brief moment when the pair attend a classical concert --- Lou's first --- Will slyly looks over to see her reaction. It's just one of many small interactions that give the audience clues as to Will's mindset towards "Clark". Then Lou dreams up a vacation in paradise which she convinces Will to experience. Her goal? To show Will how good life can be, even when confined to a wheelchair. When Will eventually confides to Clark that she is his only real reason for waking in the morning --- grab the tissue, you'll need it.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!