Me Before You is the weepy romantic drama starring Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke, and The Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin. It’s based upon the book of the same name by JoJo Moyes, which if you haven’t read, you totally should. Though I recommend you should probably avoid the film after doing so, lest you find yourself frustrated at the ridiculousness of this adaptation.
It’s odd, considering JoJo Moyes herself adapted her popular novel for the screen, that this movie becomes more about how much Louisa & Will we can squeeze into an hour and a half as opposed to any actual narrative. The movie, devoid of almost every scene in the book that does not include Louisa and Will, overdoses its audience on an abundance of Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. Actors who, in general, are quite enjoyable to watch, but in this adaptation become tiresome and quite honestly, annoying.
Quirky Louisa Clarke is a slightly awkward, wholly unambitious 26-year old waitress at a local cafe. She works for a living, devoting most of her money to her struggling working-class family, whom she lives with. She has a boyfriend of 6-7 years, Patrick and a sister, Treena, who for the most part she remains jealous and resentful of.
It’s important to note the relationships of the people around Louisa Clarke, and her relationship to them as without those, she is nothing but a shell of a character with no basis. In the movie, Louisa feels no resentment to her sister, instead seeming to have quite a good relationship with her. Her struggling working class family, don’t appear to be struggling at all, their house has an abundance of books and ornaments, is quite large in size, and Louisa’s “box room” (bedroom) that she’s forced to stay in while Treena and her son have the larger room, are no where to be seen. Her Grandpa – who I should say lives in what should be a cramped house with Louisa, Treena, Treena’s son and Louisa’s Mum and Dad – remains a permanent fixture in her life and the family home, yet is shown once and only once. In the background of a wider shot of their kitchen. When he’s mentioned later on in the film, it’s hard to even remember if he was in the movie at all, given that we are not introduced to his character in the slightest.
In what I can only assume was an effort to spearhead this movie by its impressive cast rather than its narrative, Me Before You sees a muddled mess of hastily written Louise & Will scenes thrown together frantically, before we reach the eventual end. (no pun intended) The sentiment of Will’s thoughtful birthday gift to Louisa – a pair of striped bumblebee tights that hold sentimental value from her childhood – is completely lost on the audience as is her dislike of Patrick’s gift – A necklace with his name on it. In the books, he gets her a flashy item of jewellery, and having seen Louisa interacting with many different characters, and seen her aside from Will, we as the reader understand that something as flashy as this isn’t to Louisa’s taste at all.
When Will’s ex-girlfriend and best friend come to visit, it’s supposed to be monumental. The two most important people from his previous life have come to visit him quite some time after his accident. They tread on eggshells around him, eventually revealing that the two of them are now together, and will be married. News like this is something that in the books, pained Will and was for Louisa, painfully awkward to listen to. In the movie however, we watched these two underdeveloped characters skim through two lines lifted from the book before exiting the scene haphazardly.
As a book reader, I found myself quite annoyed with this film. Although I enjoyed the book and Louisa and Will’s story, I also liked the narrative in general. The background to Will and Louisa’s stories, which shaped them as characters, and widened the story from a simple romance. In general, I’m not a fan of Romantic Drama’s, and in a somewhat cynical manner, seem to only take interest in ones where tragedy presides. Why? Because it means I don’t have to sit there for an hour and half and watch two empty characters canoodle with one another pointlessly from happy beginning, to happy middle and happy end with absolutely no conflict or climax to the story at all.
When Louisa initially found out about Will’s desire to die via Dignitas in the books, she quit her job with the Traynor’s. She wanted nothing to do with Will or his family or this horrible plan of theirs, and couldn’t support it at all. In the movies, Louisa jumped right over the internal conflict she was supposed to have, and spearheaded the metaphorical campaign to “Keep Will Alive”.
The story of Louisa being sexually assaulted in the maze as a kid, and that being one of the reasons she’s so reserved and content with her boring life, never wanting to try or do nice things out of fear, was not present in the movie at all. The well rounded Louisa Clarke from the books, was not the same character we saw on the screen, and in reality the only similarity between the two was their love of outlandish outfits. Emilia Clarke’s wonderfully expressive face (read: eyebrows) kicked into overdrive to play Louisa Clarke. Her expressions and reactions almost always over the top, it became extremely hard to like the character, as she felt rather like a caricature of her book counterpart.
The incredibly sarcastic and withdrawn Will Traynor was charismatic and full of charm from beginning to end. The scruffy man who hadn’t left the house in years apart from medical appointments, was nowhere to be seen in this film. The Will Traynor who had allowed his hair to grow shaggy, and his unkempt facial hair to cover his handsome features, was nowhere to be seen in this movie. Sam Claflin sported a little stubble, and a small amount of hair atop his hair for the movie’s attempt at Will Traynor. In other words, the dishevelled Will Traynor from the books, had to of course remain attractive on screen at all times, lest we push audiences away with the reality of his situation or how he’s feeling etc.
When Louisa is laid off from her job suddenly, the cafe closing down, we have no indication of why this is happening. As a book reader, I knew, but for people who didn’t; no clue was given as to why this happened.
It made no effort creating a well-written or even interesting narrative, and was instead a terribly awkward, cringe-worthy, wholly unsatisfying mess.
Neither the characters from the books or its narrative were recognisable in this terrible adaptation, and had it been any other cast, it would’ve been a commercial flop. Luckily, with the success of Game of Thrones, this movie has Emilia Clarke, beautifully expressive eyebrows and all to hold it up, as well as heartthrob Sam Claflin. I daresay the addition of esteemed actors like Janet McTeer, Charles Dance & Brendan Coyle as well as fan favourites Matthew Lewis and Jenna Coleman, are quite a big part of this movie’s ability to attract and seemingly keep audiences. I can assure you, were it not for this cast, this movie would be a dud.
Unfortunately, though I read and thoroughly enjoyed the book, I have to regrettably give Me Before You a measly 2/5 Stars.
Disappointing and haphazardly thrown together, the pacing and narrative of this adaptation fall flat. Characters that I once held an affinity for, I no longer care about, and in neglecting to developing these characters beyond what they are together, the movie failed to bring a convincing story to the screen. As it happens, two empty shells of characters spending time with another and falling in love, aren’t generally of interest. Go figure.
P.s I think the easily discernable Aussie accent of an Australian character is enough to tell us that the character is Australian. We don’t need to hear him say “G’day” 3,000,000 times, okay?
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