SPOILER ALERT: Some of the comparisons between the book and the film go quite in-depth so some readers may want to avoid if they don’t know what happens.
An adaptation of the bestselling novel, Me Before You sees Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke fall for each other when she becomes his carer after a motor accident results in him becoming quadriplegic.
As book adaptations go, this one has stayed pretty loyal to its source material (probably thanks to the fact that the author JoJo Moyes adapted the book herself). Clearly some changes had to be made to squeeze a 500 page book into a film that is less than two hours long so they’ve dispensed with sub-plots such as Mr. Traynor’s affair and Louisa’s sexual assault. A result of this is that the whole aspect of Mr. Traynor only staying with his family because of Will is lost. This was slightly disappointing given that Will’s suicide suiting him added another devastating blow in the book.
The problem with removing these aspects of the story is that it has removed some of the bite from a story that raises a lot of ethical questions. The film therefore puts a lot more emphasis on the love story than in the book. In a way this is inevitable though seeing as it is much easier for them to sell a movie as a tragic romance than an ethical exploration of assisted suicide.
Having said that, the film is impeccably cast with Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke really embodying Will Traynor and Louisa Clark with really great chemistry between them. Like Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything before him, Claflin being able to convey such emotional struggle without being able to move his body really impresses here.
Contrary to what some reviewers have said about this film, it didn’t feel as manipulative as many romantic weepies have done before it. If this was a Nicholas Sparks adaptation there would probably have been a dead/dying parent thrown into the mix too and some disgustingly cloying lines declaring undying love. However this is a definitively British love story so everyone generally keeps a stiff upper lip until the pretty devastating last 30 minutes and it is all the better and more impactful for it.
The finale is has all the more impact thanks to the humour peppered throughout as well, with Louisa birthday dinner particularly drawing a lot of laughs. As a result it almost plays out like more of a rom-com until the end.
Whilst it would’ve been refreshing to have had more of the story focus on the argument over Dignitas clinics in Switzerland, Me Before You has done a solid job at not talking down to its audience over such a sensitive topic. By presenting both sides of the argument and leaving some things unsaid it gives a lot of food for thought, which can only be a good thing.
Just remember to take tissues!
4 out of 5
by Jamie Harris