By Keeva Stratton
When a young woman takes a job as a carer for a young man with a serious disability, she finds the ability to live and love like never before.
Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) is fired from her job at the town’s local café, and finds herself in a desperate search for an income that can help to support her impoverished parents. Equally desperate are the parents of the very wealthy Will (Sam Claflin), who was left with paraplegia after a terrible accident.
Will went from a highflying, fast living London entrepreneur to the depths of depression following his accident. Two years on, he is still struggling to come to terms with how his life has changed.
Will feels he’s lost so much more than his physical abilities, having pushed away the love of his life, left his well-regarded career and fallen into the pits of depression. Having decided to end his life through assisted suicide, his parents have asked that he give them six months to prove things can be better. By hiring the spirited Lou, they hope he will again find his will to live.
Initially Lou finds it hard to crack Will’s dark and pretentious façade, but slowly her lust for life breaks through—and to both their surprise a genuine love affair begins. As the clouds part and Will starts to show signs of mental recovery, he must reconsider his decision to end his life. The question is: will his newfound love be enough to inspire him to persist with life?
Me Before You has courted a lot of interesting discussions on the representation of disability in cinema, both positive and negative. While many have applauded the central focus of a character living with disability—especially presented as a love interest—others have questioned why an actor with a disability was not selected to portray the role, and there have also been strong concerns about the film’s message, suggesting death may be a valid alternative to living with a disability.
While each of these perspectives carry weight, discussing these issues is also vital; and despite its imperfect representation, giving disability visibility is an essential first step. Hopefully this film will open the door to many more stories that explore—and through increased representation, normalise—having a disability.
The film itself ticks all the boxes for a solid romance, which has all the heart clutching and heart fluttering feel-good moments you’d expect from the genre. Emilia Clarke’s Lou shows her warmth and comedic potential as the quirky and endearing love interest. Fans of Game of Thrones may be concerned by her proximity to Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance plays Sam’s father), but will otherwise enjoy seeing both these actors assume vastly different characters to their more identifiable onscreen roles.
This adaptation of the popular Jojo Moyes novel (who has also written the screenplay) is warming and wonderful as a heartfelt piece.
Director: Thea Sharrock
Stars: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin
Runtime: 110 mins
Release Date: June 16
Reviewer Rating: 3/5