This looks to be a cute and endearing romance, but it is not. Here’s a major warning from the outset: I will be breaking one of my cardinal rules of reviewing. Included within this review are spoilers. I feel this is justified, though, due to the abhorrent message depicted in Me Before You.
Yes, the reaction I had to this film was different from what the makers would have desired. The trailers for Me Before You communicate a beautiful and endearing romance that involves two people who desire to overcome some of life’s biggest challenges. But, as it turns out, that is not what is at the film’s heart. This is a case of the trailer deceiving audiences with a bait and switch. The actual emotion I experienced after leaving the theatre was one of disbelief. This film was not a romance — but a justification for euthanasia.
What was set up as a celebration of love was all a deception, to mask a message that supports an egregious act against human life.
In setting the stage for this misleading love affair, we are introduced to the whimsical personality of Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke). She is a young woman who is comfortable in her own shoes. She loves her family and is beloved by the inhabitants of her small British community. Even though that is the case, she does lose her job at the local tea shop. Lou must find work to help her family to make ends meet. In desperation, she becomes a carer for a wealthy quadriplegic, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). He was injured in a road accident two years earlier. She finds him at a stage where he thinks there is little to live for. He seems to spend most of his time thinking about what he has lost.
When the ray of sunshine named Lou Clark comes into his life, she is like a breath of fresh air that blows away his joyless existence. Lou provides hope to the Traynor manor (Will lives with his wealthy parents). As Lou and Will’s relationship begins to flourish, the harsh reality of life’s decisions take on a new reality for both of them. But even with all of the love and care that Will experiences from his family, friends and Lou, he decides to continue towards getting assistance in the taking of his own life.
The romance is treated with realistic effectiveness and Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) is perfect as the innocent, but captivating Lou Clark. Her love interest, Sam Claflin (Hunger Games), manages to prove that he has the potential to be an engaging love interest in a romantic drama. The family culture of the Clark’s and Traynor’s are both beautifully depicted, as real, loving homes from their different sides of town. However, even with all of these strong elements, director Thea Sharrock fails to keep the fire of their relationship above a dull smoulder. The development on-screen takes so long that the viewer may fall asleep… prior to being shocked awake with the nightmare ending!
Before concluding this review, it must be said that the tragedy displayed in the life of Will Traynor as a quadriplegic is not a subject to be treated lightly. Those who have experienced these challenges in their lives need to be supported and encouraged in light of the challenges that confront them every day. Also, those within our community who suffer from suicidal tendencies need to be supported and should never be marginalised, but directed to assistance with their lives.
In saying all of this, the difficulty with the novel and film is writer Jojo Moyes chooses to present euthanasia as a peaceful answer to someone confronted with some of life’s great difficulties. Many characters in Me Before You do put forward arguments against this option for unnecessarily ending a life, but Will Traynor’s pro-euthanasia stance is the outlook upheld by Moyes’ tale. So, what might have developed as a beautiful story of love overcoming life’s obstacles turns into a distasteful message of death, disguised as a message of freedom.
A concluding letter written to Lou by Will is meant to be a challenge to her — and us — to live life to the full. But it comes off as a hypocritical lesson, as it is narrated by the very person who has chosen to not take his own advice.
What are some of the bigger things to consider from this film?
If a film like Me Before You does anything good, it has the potential to encourage people to know that God cares for them.
Before anyone is born and they experience all of life’s inevitable trials, God knows us all. As explained in Psalm 139, He sees all of His creation as a masterpiece, fearfully and wonderfully made. Also, throughout the trials and travails of our time on earth, He provides hope through the work of his son, Jesus, who came to save us and provide us with access to eternal life. The final message of the Bible and the life of Jesus is that anyone can choose to have this hope of eternal life: a life without tears, without wheelchairs and without pain in the presence of God.