Movie Review: Me Before You

me-before-youMe Before You (2016) – based on the novel by Jojo Moyes. Starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin.

IMDb. Movie page. Book (Goodreads). Book (my review).

 

In case you’ve missed it, I recently read and reviewed Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, which I’d wanted to read for a while but never got around to it. Then I saw the trailer for this movie and decided that if Sam Claflin wasn’t enough to make me finally commit to the book, nothing would work. And I read it and liked it a lot.

Now, this movie review will contain SERIOUS SPOILERS for both the book and the movie (really, discussing one without the other is kind of weird at this point), so please be warned. If you want to read and/or watch these without being spoiled for anything, you should really stop reading right about now. Sorry.

srcek

As I said, I really liked the book. It was heartfelt and powerful without being sentimental, judgemental, or any other -mental you can imagine. It dealt with a very serious topic, that of Will’s decision to end his life after an accident has left him paralyzed from the neck down, in a very down-to-earth way.

But I can see how people could disagree with the general idea of the book. It’s a book that allows a suffering man a choice to end his life on his own terms. While I agree that choices should be left to individuals, I understand why this would upset people, especially if you’re religious and believe ending your life (in any circumstances) is a grave sin. I have no such reservations about this topic – and yet the portrayal of this issue in the movie left me feeling very unsatisfied.

Movie Will (as we shall call him) is very different from Book Will. Book Will suffers a lot. Constantly. His life is a series of humiliations, pain, and diseases that very nearly kill him each time. He is depressed, hurt, and very sure he wants to die. Movie Will, however, is a gorgeous young man who just happens to be immobilized and is bemoaning the loss of his playboy days. The reasons given for Book Will’s decisions held much more weight than the reasons Movie Will gave: he mentioned not wanting to get used to this new life. Look, I can’t judge anyone for making a decision either way, I have no idea what it’s like to be in a similar situation, and thank the gods for that, but the difference between the book and the movie is profound in this regard.

And I know it’s hard to transfer a 500-page book into a 2-hour movie but I really missed Lou’s narration. She thought a lot about Will’s decision, she followed news concerning two other cases where two invalids decided to end their lives in a similar manner, along with the media shitstorm that followed. The topic is serious, as serious as it gets, really, and it’s sad to see it reduced to this whimsical option of nearly romantic escape. 

What seems interesting is that it was Jojo Moyes herself who wrote the screenplay! I wonder what made her change her opinion – or viewpoint, rather – from the book to the movie. Was it the criticism of the book? The pressure of the filmmaking company? A wish to make the story more appealing to a wider audience (though the book itself was a bestseller already)? I wish I knew.

There’s still the issue of Lou’s transformation. I mentioned it in my review but I think it was even more explicitly stated in the movie – she says something like “I changed everything about myself for you and I’m still not enough.” This, combined with Will’s superior manner, chafed a bit.

I was impressed by Claflin’s performance, though I imagined Will to be rougher around the edges – but the poor man can’t help being gorgeous, now can he? :) I was less satisfied with Clarke, who, though undeniably one of the most beautiful actresses of this generation, seemed too sentimental and even pathetically emotional at times. Her acting was okay for the most part, she captured Lou’s essence admirably, but when it came down to the really hard scenes that were supposed to make my heart bleed, I could only sigh.

The movie itself is a thing of beauty, though. I’m sure the filming location will be mobbed by hordes of fans for years (I wouldn’t mind visiting it myself). I lack the expertise and the correct words to describe what, exactly, I liked so much, but the movie was bright, shiny, and colorful. I’m not sorry I went to see it, even my husband liked it, but I wish it was truer to the original story.

srcek

Have you seen this movie? What did you think?

Have you ever found a movie to be better than the book?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • I’ve been looking forward to reading your thoughts on the film in comparison to the book! As I said before, I’ve only seen the film, so I really appreciate this comparison. Strange indeed that Jojo Moyes changed so much! I hadn’t even realised she wrote the screenplay as well. While I’m entirely pro-choice, the film still doesn’t sit well with me for the same points you mention and the very present ablism. I really didn’t mind looking at Sam Claflin for an hour and a half, though ;)

    • Yep, it was Jojo who wrote the screenplay, but I know nothing about WHY she changed things. I talked to my mom about it, too – she read the book before seeing the movie as well – and she pretty much agrees with me.

      And yeah, Sam Claflin is definitely easy on the eyes. I liked him a lot in Hunger Games and I think he’s got a very nice career ahead of him. :D

  • Anne Kooistra points out the ableism in the movie and book, which to be honest is one of the things that has kept me from reading/seeing it so far. But I agree that it’s odd that Moyes changed the character of Will so much from the book to the movie.

    • Yeah, I can see how that would be off-putting for some people, though I have to say that the book treats this subject in a MUCH more thorough way than the movie. In the book, you have all the aspects presented, with Lou’s mom pitching a fit when she finds out what’s about to happen and all. So I was really surprised when the movie treated the issue so lightly – because it’s as far from a “light” topic as you can get, really.