But banish thoughts of geriatric sponge baths. This is a romance, after all. Will is young, rougishly handsome, charming (when he wants to be) and rich. He is also a quadriplegic locked in a bitter struggle to reconcile his past life with his physical disability.
Through a number of twists, Clark goes from annoyance to friend to Samaritan to cheerleader to lover in a film that starts off a bit like Beauty and the Beast but ends on challenging themes, as fans of the eponymous book will know all too well.
In its short duration, Me Before You doesn’t look too deeply at the moral issues at the core of the plot, but likeable Emilia Clarke (playing Clark in the film) makes it warm and watchable, despite a maudlin premise. Will has resolved to end his life at a Dignitas clinic, to which Lou responds, earnestly, “but that was before me”.
Inevitably, Me Before You is not without its fair share of cheese: there's a cringe-worthy studying montage where Lou learns about disability and possibly too much Ed Sheeran as backing music.
A top notch supporting cast match the warmth of the two central roles. Joanna Lumley makes a cameo… as herself. An all-grown-up Neville Longbottom plays Lou’s towering, lycra-clad boyfriend, Patrick. Game of Thrones fans will spot a couple of cast members they recognise, including Charles Dance swapping one brooding father role for another.
The film stays very true to the smash-hit book. There is some plot cut out — with the castle and Will’s parents play less complex roles and there is none of the darker backstory explaining plucky Lou's self-imposed limitations and reluctance to spread her wings.
The film’s faithfulness isn’t surprising since author Jojo Moyes also wrote the screenplay. It’s sadly rare to see a film written and directed and starring women and it’s heartening for the industry that they’ve pulled off a likeable British film; Lou is always trying to make cups of tea to solve complex issues.
It’s a little unsubtle, with dialogue like “I saw the Swiss postmark”, and too similar in story not to draw unfavourable comparisons with Les Intouchables, the other odd-couple film where one is rich and quadriplegic and the other is from the other side of the tracks and there’s a scene where classical music is a great leveller.
In the book you hear from other quadriplegic people who have come to terms with their disability and live happy lives. Without these voices, the film makes Will's condition seem more of a dead end and has prompted backlash from campaigners who dub it a 'disability snuff movie'.
There are larger morals at play, but the warmth and enjoyment in this film comes from the story of two young people and the choices they make. On leaving, the cinema loos are full of crying women. One sobs, “I didn’t know that was going to happen,” and her friend hugs her. Ultimately uplifting, it’s a film worthy of the book.
|What||Me Before You, film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Acton Town (underground)|
03 Jun 16 – 14 Jul 16, 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here for more information|