Top of the mornin’ to ya, my friends! The last few days have been positively frigid, and I’ve had to brave the cold more than once…but hey, as long as there’s no ice, I’m good–it’s fine–I’m okay 😂 Thankfully, chilly evenings are perfect for snuggling up with a warm blanket and a movie. I’ve rewatched Man of Steel (which I still adore with all of my heart) and I (finally!) got around to watching the wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey Arrival.
But at my sister Katie’s recommendation, I also watched Me Before You–and that’s the one I’ll be writing about today. I have a lot of thoughts on this movie…some good, some bad, some just plain conflicted. And is this cruel of me, writing about a bittersweet romance the week before Valentine’s Day? “Oh my friends, my friends, forgive me…”
Young and quirky Louisa “Lou” Clark (Emilia Clarke) moves from one job to the next to help her family make ends meet. Her cheerful attitude is put to the test when she becomes a caregiver for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a wealthy young banker left paralyzed from an accident two years earlier. Will’s cynical outlook starts to change when Louisa shows him that life is worth living. As their bond deepens, their lives and hearts change in ways neither one could have imagined.–Google Synopsis
First off, I can say that this is an absolutely charming film. The soundtrack is a joy and the characters are a delight. I’m pretty sure Emilia Clarke is one of my new favorite actresses. As for Sam Claflin, he did an exceptional job portraying the extremely limited physicality of a young quadriplegic man.
But Clarke’s character, Lou, is the heart and soul of this story. Kind, loyal, and hard-working, she’d probably take any job if it meant she could help her family. And how can I not mention her quirky sense of style? I often found myself wondering, “I can’t wait to see what she wears next.” Striped tights? Old-fashioned pumps with bows on the buckles? A garish sweater with a polka-dot skirt? Her wardrobe was a rollercoaster from beginning to end.
Her stubborn optimism and cheerful defiance, however, are the traits that finally win Will Traynor’s heart–but without a cure in sight, he’s now considering physician-assisted suicide. When Lou finds out about this, she refuses to give him up. Convinced that his life is worth living despite his permanent limitations, she makes it her goal in life to convince him of it, as well.
Far better writers than I have discussed the deep flaws in this story’s handling of disability and euthanasia. I, however, am coming at it from a different angle today–not because those issues are unimportant, but because I’d rather tackle this movie from Lou’s perspective rather than Will’s (which has been done often and thoroughly).
There are many beautiful things about Lou’s relationship with Will. Like Belle with the Beast, she coaxes him out of his bitterness and grief simply by being her encouraging, indomitable self. Her birthday is my favorite part of the whole film: her boyfriend gives her a necklace with his own name on it (?!?!?!), but Will gives her a pair of yellow-and-black striped tights…the tights she’s wanted with all her heart since she was a little girl. In that moment, everyone else realizes that Will knows her and sees her, and that he just left the guy who’s supposedly in love with her in the dust.
Lou knows and sees Will, too, and she loves and cares for him in so many self-sacrificial ways. But at the end of the day, she thinks she can fix him. She hopes desperately that she can be enough for him, that she can be his whole world, and that her presence, love, and loyalty to him will give him enough motivation to keep living. As I remember her frantic desperation to keep him alive, I can’t help but think of this quote from C.S. Lewis:
“Never, never pin your whole faith on any human being: not if he is the best and wisest in the whole world. There are lots of nice things you can do with sand; but do not try building a house on it.”
And then, as a follow-up, I find myself thinking on another Lewis quote:
“Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
Lou’s love for Will is beautiful. So is the fact that she showed him compassion even when she couldn’t condone his final choice. But at the end of the day, while the love of another human is wonderful, it can’t be our sole reason for persevering through life. People will disappoint, and we’ll disappoint them. More importantly, human love will never fill the God-shaped hole in every heart.
I think that’s why Me Before You ended up feeling like an unresolved piece of music. It was whimsical, funny, and often heartwarming. But it was still one of those stories where, as a Christian, I felt the painful absence (within the characters’ minds) of a compassionate God and a proper view of suffering.
What are your thoughts on this film? I’d love to discuss it in the comments section!
7 thoughts on “Movie Review: “Me Before You””
Everything about Me Before You makes me SO MAD. *seethes*
However! If you want to see a quadriplegic character whose story has a FAR more hopeful ending, may I recommend Friday Night Lights? I’ve been slowly making my way through it on Netflix for the past two months. Yeah, it’s a football story, and yeah, it’s cheesy at times, but I’ve grown more and more impressed with the heart behind the show and the way the writers truly commit to exploring all angles of their character’s choices. Plus, it showcases one of the strongest and most mature marriages I’ve yet encountered on screen.
I wouldn’t say it made me mad, but it did make me sad. I don’t think my mom would mind me telling you that she cried and cried at the end, simply because Will was so lost and hope-less.
Friday Night Lights sounds very interesting! I’ll have to look into it.
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As a disabled person, and chronically ill for over three decades, I won’t watch yet another movie that has as its conclusion (as I understand) that the vulnerable individual needs to grit teeth and tidy themselves away so the rest of the world can continue its merry ‘normal’ life. Same reasons against Million Dollar Baby, and The Sea Inside, and Seven Pounds. Whatever life we get, that’s what we get.
If the outside world keeps making life impossible for the vulnerable and the sick and others, we need to change the outside world.
I like your comment about the value of suffering and people. I’m appalled by how often suffering is made worse for those who have somehow broken a rule somewhere – the incarcerated, the mother rearing children by herself, the ones who talk to themselves. The intellectually challenged, the ‘others.’ By supposedly God-fearing people as well as heartless bureaucrats.
What we need to do is make sure we don’t warehouse those who take a little more time and trouble with overburdened caretakers who neglect or abuse them. Make SURE they are safe. Compassion doesn’t come from envy and greed. And it will make the lives of those who develop that compassion also much better.
Dressing it up in glamor and beautiful music doesn’t make it right. Humanity without suffering is plastic.
“Humanity without suffering is plastic.” SO TRUE.
I read the book and watched the movie, but it’s been forever, so my thoughts aren’t that “fresh.” I don’t remember being offended or unoffended either way; I didn’t see it as having any underlining message, it was just a story about one man who decides his life is worthless and wants to take it, even though everyone in his life is arguing with him that it is not, and that he should live to the fullest. He did annoy me for being so darn stubborn about it, and not really taking anyone else into consideration with his decision (it’s all about “me”) — especially the girl who had fallen in love with him. But some people ARE just that selfish, and it was indeed sad that he lived a life without hope. Her character was adorable, though. Loved her.
She really was adorable–and so admirable in so many ways! I didn’t think it was a bad movie at all; in fact, I thought it was, for the most part, very well-told. And I don’t think it portrayed Will’s decision as a good thing, either. I personally believe that the only thing the movie truly applauded was Lou’s willingness to be with him in his final moments, even though she disagreed with his decision. At the end of the day, she simply loved him. She couldn’t change him, but she showed him love to the very end, and that was all that mattered.
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Excellent review. I don’t have plans to read or watch Me Before You, but I really appreciated your thoughtful take on the film. It really does make me sad when I watch a movie or read a book where the characters SO CLEARLY need Christ, but you know that’s not going to happen. :*(