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!