Me Before You : Movie review

I think watching a movie based on a book is one of the toughest thing to do for a book lover. Everything we see, we want to be an exact replica of how we thought the plot should turn out to be.We compare and find these weird, small, big, even  stupid contrasts and start criticising the movie. Now that I say that, i guess it must be even more difficult for the directors to make a movie based on books, knowing they have such high hopes and possibly harsh criticisms, because lets face it, no book reader has ever been happy with the movie version of the book, unless its Requiem for a dream, of course.

I try to not be too harsh on book adaptations, but this book, was special. I read Me Before You long before I ever knew it was going to be a movie. Infact for the Indian readers, it will be interesting to know, the movie Guzarish, was a lose interpretation of Me Before You. Yes, now that I said it, I can see those wheels turning and comparisons happening. Anyway, coming back to the movie, Me Before You. My verdict. Good movie, but it could have been much better. A cliche book readers opinion, but i have my reasons.

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When I finished reading the novel, I didn’t want to review it; I wanted to reread it. “Me Before You” is a love story and a family story, but above all it’s a story of the bravery and sustained effort needed to redirect the path of a life once it’s been pushed off course. Author Jojo Moyes provides an eye-opening look at what quadriplegics have to deal with on a daily basis, physically, emotionally, and socially. Also addressed is the issue of death with dignity. That said, the book has stirred controversy for offering what some consider a stereotypical portrayal of a disabled person who feels that life’s not worth living because he’s disabled.

The movie however, was a different experience altogether.

Emelia Clark in the movie, plays Louisa Clarke, a plain-Jane Louisa “Lou” Clark, from a rowdy, working-class British family. Lou becomes the caretaker for blue-blood quadriplegic Will Traynor, played with winning charm by Sam Claflin of The Hunger Games franchise. Will, played by our very own Sam Clafin, is an impossibly handsome London financier who was paralyzed two years ago when a motorcycle accident ended a lifestyle that he absolutely loved. He was a thrill seeker, an adventure junkie who is now in a wheel chair, with the knowledge that he will never walk again.

There are a lot of things that set the novel apart from other romance novels or even the likes of 50 shades grey. The character actually had so much depth, and there are descriptions and viewpoints from almost all major characters in the book about Will, his plan, his pain and their resulting pain. It was a beautiful thing to see, where one decision could affect so many people in so many ways. But most of all, the two major characters, were portrayed with so much care and minute details. Their backstories gave them more depth, more understanding, otherwise how do you justify killing yourself, and letting someone kill themselves in front of you?

While there are a few minor changes throughout the film — Will’s sister Georgina doesn’t appear; his father doesn’t have an affair — there is one big omission that stands out.

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Louisa’s depth goes beyond that of a struggling middle-class hero. She may be light and airy and chipper, but there’s an unshakeable tinge of tragedy about her. She’s never really ventured beyond the small town she lives in. There are economic restraints, but it’s more than that. It’s a phobia, a fear of not playing it safe.

The flashback—one of many elements that sets Me Before You at the front of the romantic novel class—reveals why. Louisa was sexually assaulted by a group of men, and in an emotional moment in the novel, she returns to the scene of the assault with Will and explains her trauma. It’s this plot line, arguably over any other in the novel, that gives the most insight to Louisa as a character.The crux of the story was, until she confides the story to Will, she believes that it was her fault. The incident itself is upsetting, but so is the implication that she needs an excuse to dress quirkily, and that the excuse is her assault.

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Will, has a difficult life. And the movie didn’t show any of that pain. Agony. Infact I saw more pain in the Julia Roberts movie Dying Young, than Me before you, while clearly Will was in a worse place. First time in this instant I would say GUzarish did a spectacular job of making you care and not only sympathize but empathize and understand the main character’s agony. The moment Ethan decided to die, we all wanted his pain to end, but for me, Me before you the movie, did nothing, I felt nothing. And that is a shame because the book, is intense. It is moving, it is painful and it is definitely not unfeeling.
It is the understanding of each other’s pain that brings these characters together, but the movie did not give you the opportunity to explore that.

As Variety magazine so elaborately put it,

These are deep, complicated issues the film wades into, and it quickly winds up out of its depth. Aside from its inelegant way of addressing the politics of euthanasia — with the con side represented by a character, never previously identified as religious, now prominently wearing a crucifix — “Me Before You’s” admirable presentation of a disabled person as a swoon-worthy romantic lead collides awkwardly with its implicit suggestion that perhaps such a life isn’t even worth living, and the undercurrents of wish-fulfillment leave a sour taste. The skittish delicacy with which it tiptoes around the realities of quadriplegia doesn’t help; 2014’s romance “The Fault in Our Stars” was far bolder and more honest about the painful details of living with serious medical difficulties, and that was a film aimed at teenagers.

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Not one but two Ed Sheeran songs and some seriously milquetoast musical fare get audiences primed for the torrent of emotions to come, but for me, the songs just made the movie more cliche. They had an amazing cast, and an amazing story, but what the movie failed to do was convince you that going to Dignitas was the right thing for Will. It failed to make me feel like Will actually changed Lousia’s life, because in the movie, she had no back story, so what was she afraid of? it failed to make me cry or make me feel very deeply about anything other than the picturesque locations and the really good looking cast.

The book, was so much more than a love story. The movie however, is not. But given that the film’s catchphrase is “Live boldly!,” it’s a shame that “Me Before You” didn’t take a bolder and more honest route in its adaptation of the novel by Jojo Moyes. I would have loved to see it onscreen, the way it was in the book. Infact for Me before you enthusiasts, Id highly recommend watching the Hindi movie Guzarish. That will make you feel, loads.

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