As far as soppy romances go, they can either end up being heart wrenchingly effective or, well, a soppy romance. Me Before You tries so hard to be the former but in the end never manages to pull it off.
Based on the novel by Jojo Moyes (who also wrote the script) and directed by Thea Sharrock (her first feature), Me Before You follows Louisa “Lou” Clark (Emilia Clarke) and Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). Lou is an unemployed waitress with a flair for zany clothing who begins working as a caregiver for Will, a brooding quadriplegic who became disabled after a motorcycle accident. Lou is the relentless sunshine to Will’s dark and gloomy clouds and even though she has a clueless boyfriend named Patrick (Matthew Lewis), the chemistry between Lou and Will can’t be stopped.
It’s all fairly predictable but it works primarily thanks to the chemistry between Clarke and Claflin. Clarke’s Lou is bubbly and her eyebrows dance on her face so expressively that it becomes difficult to look anywhere else. But surprisingly, all that emoting always comes across as genuine and believable. Claflin, for playing a quadriplegic, surprisingly doesn’t reach much depth here due to time constraints, but does the best with what he’s given. For as much chemistry as the two actors have together, I had to double-check the rating after I left the film. That much chemistry and we only get a few chaste kisses? What kind of romance is this?! At least it’s heavily implied that Will’s hot Australian nurse Nathan gets some action on their Spanish vacation.
While it’s certainly cute to watch Lou and Will fall for one another, so much time is spent on them that it leaves the meatier emotional parts feeling rushed. We never get enough background or exploration as to why Will, as a person, is so deeply upset about his current life and why he feels the need to follow a certain (spoilery) path. We never quite get the time to understand how his parents are handling this situation. Sure, we’re told through dialogue how these characters feel but it doesn’t seem authentic without scenes to back it up. As much time as the film spends building up Will and Lou’s relationship, the ending lacks an emotional punch that gives it any real weight or meaning. You’re left feeling unsatisfied and a little confused.
Me Before You is certainly well meaning and cute. The leads are enchanting and the cinematography is lush and easy to enjoy. But without the emotional heft it promises to deliver it becomes just another forgettable film full of Brits you’ve seen elsewhere.