Me Before You full movie review - Worthwhile, moving film with much more edge than it may first seem to have
Reasonably, this film (based on Jojo Moyes's book and screenplay) is indeed 'romantic drama' more than 'rom-com", which is not to deny its comedic elements.
But all should know that there is a powerful, demanding current capturing this film, which draws in part on the case of disabled British rugby player Daniel James and the question of his parents being charged for accompanying him to Switzerland's Dignitas clinic (in the end they were not). In the (full) cinema I was in, there really were few dry eyes in the house. I'll concede that mine stayed dry (not always the case), though I still find the piece affecting and thought-provoking and unquestionably worth seeing.
2 big questions concerned Emilia Clarke's chances of getting beyond (and above) Danaerys, and Sam Claflin's ability to portray someone who combines near-total physical disability with marked vulnerability to infection - the double whammy that convinces our hero that his life really and truly and literally is not worth living.
To my mind, both questions can be answered affirmatively.
Claflin's character Will Traynor is good-looking, rich and still influential. He has a commanding personality (if mostly initially grumpy and arrogant), a sharp mind and a capacity to develop Clarke's character Lou(isa) ... Clark (yes, really). That begs A LOT of questions (not sidestepped) about the contribution he can still make, not least because he has support (moral and financial) from loving and well-to-do parents - nicely done by Janet McTeer and Charles Dance. And of course not least because he makes Lou Clark love him, even though she at first has a relationshp with Patrick (played by Matthew Lewis), which is not getting very far, but is genuine, affectionate and definitely physical, if also sustained by Clark's decency and supportive nature.
Patrick is by no means a failure (he's been Entrepreneur of the Year). He's a bit dull, but not stupid or unkind, and of course he's a triathlon-type athlete. Yet he can't quite offer Lou what Traynor can (a huge and demanding thought in itself).
And Emilia Clarke does indeed offer a convincing and often-touching portrayal of that growing love (as mirrored in her character's personal development in terms of interests and style and maturity - though emphatically not basic kindness, decency, humility and optimism with life, given that this is manifest from the outset and never wavers).
This is actually then a demanding role. So much emphasis is placed on Clark's eccentric dress sense that one might start to write her off as a bit oafish. But that does not pan out. Clark is (over-?) loyal to her family, helping out financially, and so taking jobs below her potential. But she does what she does with conviction and optimism, puts all her heart and soul into each of her jobs, and she does know who she is. Hence her metamorphosis in the film adds new dimensions, but not at the expense of the old ones.
Emilia Clarke is great at all this, and she proves well able to portray inner beauty increasingly augmented by outward beauty in the more conventional sense; and when Clark looks at - and touches - her nearly immobile charge, an audience-member not made of stone is going to feel the power of the affection, and also the restraint associated with the inevitable non-physicality and asymmetry of the bond.
At at least one point in the film a comparison with Stephen Hawking is made, and this is not an idle one. There are also references to "My Left Foot" and that film's real-life Irish hero Christy Brown. Hawking steadily lost abilities, yet espoused technology to fight back and contribute. He wanted to understand the universe, and he has lived longer than anyone else ever with his disease. Christy Brown taught himself to do great and wonderful things with the limb he could still control (hence the title of the story). At first glance, Traynor has fewer aces than Brown (whose story in fact ended unhappily with his death aged 49 in 1981), though more than Hawking (whose amazing story continues). Yet Traynor wants out and is committed to that idea with a devotedness that even Clark's love cannot shift.
In spite of the chocolate-box pretty Pembrokeshire, Buckinghamshire and Mediterranean locations, this is not forgettable movie-candy. One does indeed return to the subject. And the person I saw it with came back at me a while after with the suggestion that Traynor and Clark could have married, had a kid (not necessarily even adopted?), and been worthwhile and useful and good parents making a contribution to the next generation, all the more so given further years of support from his parents and also her family (portrayed sympathetically enough by the familiar Brendan Coyle, Samantha Spiro and Jenna Coleman). And while that would have involved sacrifice and risk (given Traynor's endless susceptibility to disease that would presumably have done for him soon enough), it would have left a legacy.
There's really no answer to that, given that Traynor chooses to eschew such options; and - as the film emphasises again and again - that's his sovereign decision in regard to his life. One gets the feeling that Clark's mother would not accept that choice, but the other characters come round to the idea - with great reluctance, but nevertheless.
This is then a modern and radical film in a pretty and often traditional setting, but - as the above, nuanced references in it make clear - it is not judge and jury, at least not 100%. That role therefore falls to us, and this is as always a precious thing a (better) film can offer its audience.