I did not want to watch this movie. I really did not want to watch this movie.
And no, it is not because I don’t like romantic movies. On the contrary, I enjoy a well told romance flick and some of my favorites are Bridget Jones’ Diary, Love Actually, The Notebook and Pride and Prejudice (also one of my favorite books). My taste in film is eclectic and stretches across all genres.
No, dear reader, I did not want to watch Me Before You because of the distasteful, disrespectful and potentially dangerous underlying message of the movie, which I will get into later. For now I will issue a SPOILER ALERT and dive into the review:
Romantic drama Me Before You, based on the eponymous novel by Jojo Moyes and directed by first timer Thea Sharrock, tells the story of frumpy fired cafe worker Louisa Clark (‘Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke with an “e”) who is hired as a caregiver for wealthy Will Traynor (Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin), a cynical former banker who became quadriplegic after he was hit by a motorcycle.
Clarke is sweet and lovable as the naive and sheltered Louisa with the horrendous fashion sense, and Claflin does a good job as the brooding Will. They have great chemistry as he tries to broaden her mind and edify her, and as she tries to get him to enjoy life despite being confined to a wheelchair.
While the romance is by the numbers – boy hates world, boy and girl learn to appreciate each other, boy and girl fall in love – it is believable thanks to the leads’ performance. And there are a couple of witty moments in there as well which was enjoyable.
Louisa discovers that Will, in great pain from his condition and sorely missing his adventurous lifestyle, attempted to commit suicide and has given his parents six months until he goes through with assisted suicide in Switzerland. Louisa is determined to make Will change his mind and takes him horse racing, to concerts, to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding and even to a romantic getaway. But Will decides to still take his life any way, Louisa goes to his side on his suicide bed and the film ends with her in Paris reading a posthumous letter detailing some money he left to her and encouraging her to #liveboldly. #bullcrap.
The film sparked a major controversy and protest from members of the disabled community as they believed the film’s message was that disabled people are a burden to their families and loved ones and are better off dead. I would have to agree with that assessment and add that the film also tells people that you are better off committing suicide than living disabled.
Now I doubt (and would hope) this was not the intention of the filmmakers but this is the message that comes across. The character of Will speaks about losing his adventurous lifestyle, a life where he was unlikely to fall in love with Louisa, and the treatment he receives from people because he is disabled. One scene where his power chair is stuck in the mud exemplifies this. Now if a super rich disabled person cannot have a decent quality of life is there hope for any disabled person? You see how dark this rabbit hole goes.
And my goodness you would think that falling madly in love would be reason enough to live and enjoy every day to its fullest. But no, death over disability. What a huge insult to the millions of disabled people who live with difficulties every day, including discrimination and a lack of facilities, but strive for the life they want. And what a disgusting reinforcement of the belief that disabled people are a burden that need to be pushed away. Disabled people by and large do not want pity – they want equality of opportunity and to live their lives like everyone else.
Me Before You is your run of the mill romantic tear jerker that uses serious issues like disability and euthanasia to emotionally manipulate viewers. There are many stories of people who became disabled or were born disabled whose lives inspired others, disabled and able-bodied alike. I think of blind singer Stevie Wonder, activist and Superman actor Christopher Reeve, who like the character Will was quadriplegic, and in my home country of Trinidad and Tobago attorney Veera Bhajan who was born without arms. I will take Them and their stories over Me Before You any day of the week.
Rating: For being a generic romance that is emotionally manipulative and with a message that’s a slap in the face to the disabled community Me Before You gets 1.5/4.
So what did you think of the movie? Feel free to comment below.
For a much better romance, and one based on a true story, you can check out my trailer post on Loving here. And for more thought provoking movie posts you can follow me on Twitter @suprememango012 for updates. l8rs