The decision and debate surrounding assisted suicide is a divisive one. I’ve assessed dozens of individuals’ capacity to make decisions through my line of work, but the decision of whether someone has the right to take their own life is one I don’t think I could do. Such a moral quandary lies at the heart of Me Before You; the best selling novel of the same name that has already drawn oceans of tears from its readers and hopes to do so the same on the big screen. As an intended tearjerker you know what you’re expecting, but aside from that their are moments that give Me Before You a little more to shout about.
Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) is a successful twenty-something year old whose life tapestry could make most men jealous. One morning however he is struck down by a motorcycle on the way to work that leaves him quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. Now somewhat disillusioned by life, his parents seek out a carer that could bring back the smile to their sons face. Perfect timing for the introduction of care-free Louisa Clarke (Emilia Clarke).
Of course the topic of euthanasia is central to the story but it doesn’t hold any emotional weight if you can’t feel for the characters. Claflin doesn’t really have to do much from his chair but his condition is enough to bring sympathy. His character is at times boorish, cocky and unreasonable but that doesn’t come as surprising when you imagine the life he once lived. It’s also likely that his character is what makes him unable to see a future that he would be happy with.
Emilia Clarke on the other comes hot and cold. Fortunately for the movie her smile is infectious and her Louisa is sugar sweet to a point that you can’t help but feel warmed in her presence. However, from watching Emilia in Game of Thrones and Terminator Genisys I still think she’s not the greatest actor, and there’s a few moments in Me Before You where some subtlety could have done wonders.
What I would have preferred from Me Before You is what you get in similar films like The Sea Inside or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. In those films you get more of a personal insight to the difficulties and suffering both physically and emotionally of the main character, and instead much of what you learn about Will Traynor comes from off handed comments made by the supporting cast. Of course the difference here is that Me Before You is a romance over a drama, but I wanted a little more depth.
With regards to the message of the film I don’t think I have a direct opinion on euthanasia but I believe in free will in someone’s best interest, and one of the remits of free will is that we are entitled to make poor decisions. The fact that Will Traynor wants to end his life because he can’t adjust from what he had is not a comment on anything greater surrounding the lives of those with disabilities or the value of life, but just that this one man has given up hope. My only problem with his character is that he spouts wisdom such as ‘live every day like its your last’ which is uncomfortably ironic, but otherwise it’s a choice he has made and one the film deals with in respect.