Director: Thea Sharrock
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Jenna Coleman, Charles Dance, Matthew Lewis, Janet McTeer, Stephen Peacocke
Running Time: 1 hour 50 mins
Release Date: June 3rd 2016
The JoJo Moyes novel Me Before You first hit book stands back in 2012 and it’s safe to say the epic romance story caused quite the stir, as keen readers eagerly rushed through the page turner, leaving tear stains on each chapter. If you thought the book made you a little weepy, now might be the right time to stock up on your Kleenex because the book’s new adaptation might just finish you off.
With a screenplay from Moyes herself and first time feature director Thea Sharrock helming the project, ME BEFORE YOU tells the heart-wrenching story of happy-go-lucky Louisa and former adrenaline junkie Will; with GAME OF THRONES star Emilia Clarke and THE HUNGER GAMES heart-throb Sam Claflin playing our unlikely couple.
Will had the perfect life. Successful job, beautiful flat, stunning girlfriend and a plethora of adrenaline pumping achievements behind him. All this glory is cruelly snatched away from him after a hideous motorcycle accident that leaves him paralysed from the neck down. Barely able to move one finger and thumb, Will is left to live the rest of his days in a wheelchair, the memories of his former life taunting him in endless memories.
Knowing her son’s immense pain and desperate to keep him hopeful for a future, Will’s mother (Janet McTeer) hires sunshine in a bottle Louisa. Suffering with her own form of constraint, Louise takes the job with real enthusiasm, only to be completely disheartened by Will’s bitter nature and cruel disposition.
As they spend more and more time together, Will and Louisa form a bond unlike any other; one of both loyal friendship and blooming love. Life begins to look a little brighter for the both of them but with Will’s future still set in his chair; is love enough to keep him going?
For her first feature film, Thea Sharrock takes on this huge task with impressive confidence and a strong sense of direction. It is clear from the very outset that Sharrock knows her material and it’s a good job too, with the books fierce fans desperate for an adaptation that does the source material justice. Sigh with relief readers! The film does more than mere justice to the book, it brings it to glorious life with a burst of bright colour that gives Louisa’s wardrobe a run for its money.
Granted, the story is by no means revolutionary. There is nothing to particularly challenge you as an audience member, no twisting plot line or shockingly deep subtext but honestly, nobody is asking this film to be anything more than it is; a really great romance. Sharrock takes this and totally runs with it, giving in to all those glorious codes and conventions that keep hopeless romantics flocking to the cinema to see a good old fashioned love story.
What works so brilliantly about ME BEFORE YOU though is the quintessential Britishness of it all. It skirts the lines of cheesy so perfectly by being completely witty and wonderfully sharp. This is definitely down to the knockout screenplay from Moyes and it’s with real expertise that she’s switched from writing novels to screenplays; a task harder than one may think.
She skillfully adapts her own story to fit the traditional forms of narrative structure but keeps that joyous spirit that made readers fall in love with the book in the first place. The humour throughout the narrative is perfect. It’s genuinely funny and well timed within the dialogue, but it’s light-hearted and casual enough to lift us from some of those heavier scenes.
The triumph of the film has to be the outstanding performances from both Clarke and Claflin as our much loved duo. The chemistry between the two of them is genuinely electric; both of them embodying each character like they were written exactly for them. Book lovers will feel at ease by their presence on screen, recognising those famous character traits. While those new to the story will find themselves instantly drawn into their brilliant charisma and charm.
Clarke as Louisa feels like the human form of a great big hug. Her warmth and sweet nature is matched by her quick wit and sass, with Clarke’s comedic talent really standing out throughout the narrative. Her timing is flawless and she delivers each joke with real ease. When an actor becomes so well known for one epic character, in this case our Mother of Dragons, it’s difficult to imagine them as anyone else. However, Clarke manages to completely give herself over to Louisa so that there’s no danger of confusing her with Daenerys here.
Claflin does an equally exceptional job at playing Will. He embodies that stern outlook like clouds Will’s happiness at the beginning of the narrative but as Will’s heart opens up, Claflin charms us with his naivety and absolute openness. It’s worth mentioning the physical changed Claflin had to go through to settle into the role as Will, aiding to the sense of dedication to the character. That really is what sticks out throughout the entire film, a love for the source material and it’s clear from Claflin that he gives his absolute all to the role.
For those of you unaware of the book’s details, we won’t spoil it for you here, but if you’re a sucker for the heartache that comes with a love story, this one is going to get you right in the feels. There’s a far more serious undertone to the film’s main conflict and among the laughs and onscreen chemistry, there’s real heart and care at its core. It takes an exceptionally sad turn and we’re forced to put ourselves in the mind of one heart-breakingly broken man; an experience that delivers some real emotional turmoil.
ME BEFORE YOU isn’t going to be changing the face of cinema as we know it but who’s really asking it to? It’s a good looking film with wit, heart and all the typical mushy stuff that we know and love. With Clarke and Claflin making us fall in love with this wistfully romantic duo, ME BEFORE YOU will leave you feeling mildly devastated, but in the very best way. Who doesn’t like a good cry at the cinema?!