Life can change unexpectedly, as the leads of “Me Before You” discover during the film’s opening minutes. Successful businessman Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), busy on his phone while crossing the street, is hit by a motorcycle. Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) abruptly loses the job which helps support her extended family.
Lou and Will have little in common except for being from the same English village. Lou is working class. Her love of quirky, brightly patterned clothing is all that remains of her abandoned fashion studies dream. Will’s family owns the town’s castle. He’s had a life of privilege and success, never questioning either until his accident leaves him quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair.
The town job center sends Lou to be Will’s daytime caregiver. Lou isn’t sure she’s qualified. Will is positive he doesn’t want her around, immediately informing Lou she must stop being “chatty.” Lou endures his sarcasm because she needs the money, but his attitude hurts.
When Lou finally stands up to Will, her honesty and nerve seem to thaw him. They start a friendship, watching films, talking, and learning about each other. Things seem to be progressing until Lou overhears that Will promised his parents he would try living for six more months. But, if his pain and illnesses continue, he plans to end his life via assisted suicide. Shocked, Lou decides to involve Will in activities, hoping to change his mind.
Based on the New York Times best-selling novel of the same name, “Me Before You” features two leads with excellent chemistry. Emilia Clarke brings believable sincerity to perky Lou. Sam Claflin successfully navigates Will’s journey from angry patient to caring man. They are joined by a strong supporting cast. The pop music score complements the action, featuring songs by Imagine Dragons, Ed Sheeran, and The Cloves.
Jojo Moyes, the novel’s author, also wrote this script. She successfully mixes humor and romance in the first half of the film. Unfortunately, when addressing the subject of assisted suicide, things become problematic. Moyes has Will define himself solely by physical ability. Thus, despite having a sharp mind, Will can’t accept life as a quadriplegic and wants to end it. This attitude might be easier to accept if the audience saw Will’s struggles with pain. But, director Thea Sharrock and Moyes keep Will’s physical crises off-screen, letting his physical therapist mention them. The scenes of illness are brief. Rather than illustrate the seriousness of Will’s situation, they are used for bonding between Lou and Will. This sanitizing of Will’s challenges distances the audience, making it difficult to fully grasp the extent of his pain.