Is any life better than no life? Big questions and hot debates arise from the ashes as romance and tragedy go head-to-head yet again for a surprisingly enjoyable weepie.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Spunky and constantly chirpy Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) works hard to provide for her employment-redundant family, until she’s laid off from her job as a barista. Desperate for cash, she applies for a carer position from a wealthy family, and is put in charge of looking after their son Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). A once happy and highly successful banker, Will is now rendered cynical and wheelchair-bound thanks to his full-body paralysis. The two soon form an unlikely friendship, which eventually leads to romantic feelings for each other. It all unravels, of course, when Louisa learns of Will’s wish to euthanise himself.
More often than not, these Nicholas Sparks-style romances are laced with a more than an ample dollop of tragedy, most teetering over into full-blown ridiculousness in order to suck a cheap reaction (and a few tears) out of its easily-exploited audience. Commendably, director Thea Sharrock (in her debut) holds off on the woe factor for as long as she possibly can, instead spending most of the film igniting the chemistry between her two hugely likeable leads. It’s one of the key strengths that elevates this girl-meets-paraplegic-boy story above the sappy nonsense that Sparks churns out annually.
Naturally, there’s a lot of mushiness that will keep most hardened cynics at bay – the liberal use of Ed Sheeran on the soundtrack definitely won’t do much to help – but an air of breeziness and humour to the proceedings will win most over to the whole affair.
It’s refreshing to see Emilia Clarke in a role that isn’t all empowerment, dictatorship and authoritative speeches for a change. Given the chance to show a little range, she proves herself capable of comedy by stretching her facial expressions and eyebrows to their absolute limit; she’s daft, daffy and completely un-self-aware, sporting some truly outrageous fashion statements, but it’s impossible to hate her child-like naivety and cutesiness.
Likewise, Sam Claflin’s wisecracking Will is cocky, but never arrogant, humbled by disability, and never falls into pity thanks to his charms and wit. They’re a charismatic and classy match, and together they make a potentially cornball love story an engaging one. They’re backed by an enthusiastic supporting cast, with Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance, Home and Away‘s Stephen Peacocke and Harry Potter‘s Neville Longbottom, Matthew Lewis.
Me Before You’s climax and resolution is its danger zone; destined to split audiences down the middle in heated debate. Already causing a big stir and protests from the disabled community, it throws a lot into question. Sadly, things do fall into a silly cliché in the final frames, but it’s entirely down to the individual whether or not the taste left in its wake is a sweet or sour one.
Me Before You is available in Australian cinemas from June 16
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films