Release date: 3rd June 2016/Watch the trailer here
Normally, I would find myself vehemently opposed against any film that features an Ed Sheeran song in its trailer, but I just so happened to adore the book of Me Before You; the 2012 bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes. It was one of those books that I consumed in a matter of hours – at least half of which were spent ugly-crying – and fell in love with instantly. So it was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch the film, anxious that it couldn’t possibly do justice to one of my favourite books (after all, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time).
However, my nerves were settled almost immediately as the opening credits rolled across the screen, and I saw that the screenplay had been written by none other than Jojo Moyes herself. Who better to respect these characters and their story than the author who created them in the first place? Something else which eased my worries was the decision to keep the film as decidedly British as the book; a factor which lends the story a certain charm and eccentricity – and, being British myself, a sense of comforting familiarity – that is so often absent from a vast majority of by-the-books romantic comedies.
Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke plays Louisa Clark, a spirited woman in her mid-twenties with a passion for crazy clothes, living with her family in the small English town that she grew up in. After losing her job at the local tea shop, she finds herself caring for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a man who lost the use of his body from the neck downwards following a motorcycle accident, and with it, his desire to live.
The first twenty minutes or so of Me Before You are somewhat bumpy. Without the luxury of a hundred pages to introduce its characters, it must do so through jumping hastily from scene to scene, never pausing for long enough to allow us to get fully acquainted with the characters we’ll be spending the next ninety minutes with. Louisa’s bubbly personality is borderline annoying at times, and it’s hard to care for Will as our leading man when he does everything in his power to be so unpleasant. After some initial rough going, however, Me Before You settles into itself and finds its way as an upbeat story of friendship (and eventually, love), more of a comedy than a tearjerker, with fantastic chemistry between its two leads and a supporting cast that boasts the likes of Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, Joanna Lumley, and Harry Potter‘s Matthew Lewis.
Don’t let the awful poster or the schmaltzy trailers fool you. The soundtrack may be made up of ‘first dance at a wedding’ songs, and it may be packed with (admittedly, kind-of wonderful) quotes that no one would ever actually say in real life, but Me Before You has a heart, and it’s a beautiful one. It’s funny, it’s quirky, it’s heartbreaking, and – above all – it’s utterly delightful. It’s surely impossible to watch Louisa, in her endless variety of colourful costumes, putting her heart and soul into finding a way to bring the light back into Will’s life without a smile on your face (apart from the last fifteen minutes, which – if you’re anything like me – you’ll spend trying to stifle your embarrassingly loud sobs in a silent cinema).
Perhaps the reason I loved Me Before You so much is because it’s a wonderful adaptation that stays so faithful to the story and the characters that stole my heart. It would have been so easy for it to veer from its source material into the realms of melodramatic and emotionally manipulative, with a hefty dose of cheese. Thankfully – for both fans of the book and the unabashed unromantics – this is a film that doesn’t manipulate your emotions to make you feel them, because it doesn’t need to. It’s effortless in its humour and the characters are so genuine that you feel like you’ve known them your whole life – which only makes the reality hit all the more harder.
More than love, this is a story about life.
‘Just live well. Just live‘.