‘Me Before You’ review: Escapism at its worst
The appeal of Thea Sharrock’s Me Before You is one huge mystery.
First, there is really nothing new to it. Second, its supposed charms are all derivative and their effectiveness is ruined by lackluster filmmaking. Third and most important of all, its romance is inherently and incurably problematic.
The film, adapted from the bestselling book of the same title by its author Jojo Moyes, centers on the confused romance between an optimistic caregiver and her grumpy quadriplegic patient. Starting out with perpetually chirpy Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) losing her 6-year job at a local cafe, the film doesn’t lose any time to have her literally land at the lap of wealthy Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). Will hates his wheelchair-bound life presumably because he was such an adventuring stud before he figured into his devastating accident.
We’ve all seen this before. The tale’s as old as time. The innocent lady that charms and changes the brute. This is Beauty and the Beast, except all the magic is gone, gregariously replaced by a hybrid of real-life scenarios and unimaginative writing.
The transition from fairy tale to romantic melodrama brings forth pressing issues like class privilege and sexual politics that only serve as distractions to the kitschy love story that is, by itself something of a gigantic fraud.
So most predictably, the two fall in love, and we’re all supposed to swoon. Except the film’s powers are limited to veiling its gross idea about love with endearing dialogues and montages that are backgrounded by the most sentimental pop songs.
So Clarke plays the doll role very well. She is as cute as a button, with the biggest and most excruciatingly kitschy smile plastered all over her face. Claflin, on the other hand, grimaces like a villain, transforming only to the sort-of price charming when he gets swayed into abandoning his pleasurable sarcasm for a tub of manufactured sweetness. The film works on extremes. There is no middle ground, no room for subtlety.
Remove all of those ornaments and there is absolutely nothing swoon-worthy about Me Before You.
The film is reprehensibly misguided. The romance at its center should be up for discourse, but Sharrock and Moyes fashion it into something that is beyond doubt and questions. They expect its audience to simply admire the emotions and the sacrifices without taking into consideration the moral and cultural complexities of the lovers’ situation.
The decisions of the characters are not flavored with the logical consequences that they should result in. Instead, those decisions are used as narrative conveniences that are supposed to emphasize the quality of love that the two supposedly share but really impart a different message altogether: the triumph of the love-yourself philosophy that is adhered to by first world privilege over the intrinsic value of life itself.
Simply put, this is escapism at its worst.
But who cares? Some tear ducts are in need of cleaning, and if it takes a possibly offensive and badly directed melodrama to do the job, then let it do it. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass. Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios