[Screen It]

"ME BEFORE YOU"
(2016) (Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Romantic Drama: A young British woman takes a job as caregiver to a quadriplegic man, who changes her whole outlook on life and love.
PLOT:
Louisa Clark (EMILIA CLARKE) is a 26-year-old woman living in a small town in England. She just got laid off from her job at a local bakery and still lives at home with her unemployed father, Bernard (BRENDAN COYLE); her doting mother, Josie (SAMANTHA SPIRO); and her college-bound sister Treena (JENNA COLEMAN). Louisa has been dating a fitness spa owner named Patrick (MATTHEW LEWIS) for the past seven years, but really feels like she is going nowhere. Still, she has a lot of spunk, wears quirky and colorful clothing, and is a genuinely nice person to all she meets.

In desperate need of a job to help her family make ends meet, she accepts a position as caregiver to a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor (SAM CLEFLIN). Before his tragic injury, Will was a successful businessman and quite an active sportsman. He had a beautiful girlfriend, Alicia (VANESSA KIRBY), a loyal best friend, Rupert (BEN LLOYD-HUGHES), and he came from great wealth, even living in a local castle.

Deeply depressed and suicidal, Will has made his mother, Camilla (JANET McTEER), and father, Stephen (CHARLES DANCE), a deal. He has agreed to live another six months to see if he can exist in his current shape. If not, he will travel with his medical aide, Nathan (STEPHEN PEACOCKE), to Switzerland where assisted suicide is legal and end his life. Camilla hires the sunny, cute Louisa as Will's companion because she has hope the young woman will give him a reason to live.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
I guess there are two ways you can look at "Me Before You." On the one hand, it's definitely a weepy melodrama about a quirky young British woman who is hired as a caregiver to a suicidal, quadriplegic man, and the two slowly fall in love. Ladies, if you're yearning for a date night over a girls' night out, you can try and sell your boyfriends and husbands on that plot summary. And if you have a sensitive dude, he'll go and I think he'll get into this.

Or there is a second way to present your case. And I know I am being possibly sexist or overly general here. Plenty of guys want to see a movie like this just like plenty of gals want to see "Captain America" or "Deadpool." But if you are in the predicament of convincing your beer-bellied, football-loving manly man to accompany you to "Me Before You," tell them this. It stars Daenerys Targaryen who cheats on Neville Longbottom with Finnick Odair. His father is Tywin Lannister (or if you wanna go way back ... Sardo Numspa) and her sister is Clara Oswald.

OK, in that regard, your man also has to be a pretty big sci-fi and fantasy nerd. If he's never seen "Game of Thrones," "The Hunger Games," "Harry Potter," "The Golden Child," or "Doctor Who" ... eh, you're on your own. Yes, Emilia Clarke stars as a young British woman hired by a wealthy man (Charles Dance) to serve as a caregiver to his son, Will, a quadriplegic man played by Sam Claflin. Even though she is dating a successful local fitness spa owner (Matthew Lewis), Clarke's Louisa finds herself drawn to the handsome Will. When she finds out he wants to travel to Switzerland where assisted suicide is legal, she tries to use all of her charm and spunk to convince him to live.

The film is based on the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes, who also wrote the screenplay here. Yes, it's manipulative as all heck. Like "Pretty Woman," we wouldn't care a thing about this story if the lead guy wasn't obscenely wealthy and their dates were not the stuff of dime-store romance novels (a trip to the symphony, a day at the horse races, an island getaway). But the film works because of the charm and chemistry of the two leads and because ... well ... it's just so gosh-darn beautiful to look at.

You don't get the scene of Will soiling himself and having to be cleaned. You get a sensuous shaving sequence that is just lovely. You don't see Will crying and writhing in emotional anguish in his bed. Instead, he wants French films and quietly recalls his carefree afternoons drinking coffee and eating croissants at a Parisian cafe. He lives in a castle. An actual freakin' castle!

It's fantasy tinged with tragedy. But it's highly watchable. The supporting turns are also memorable, especially Jenna Coleman as Louisa's headstrong sister and Stephen Peacocke as Nathan, Will's medical aide. Peacocke looks so much like a well-built, young Hugh Grant, it's eerie. Seriously, look him up on IMDB.com. It will really freak you out.

"Me Before You" delivers exactly what its marketing promises. A good-cry, bring-your-own-Kleenex romantic melodrama with appealing leads, great locations, and handsome production values. It has wit and a touch of wisdom and omits some of the book's darker elements (the movie Louisa was not raped as a teen) to appeal more to the masses. It appealed to me ... but I also had the wife next to me, open-mouth bawling. It was like sitting in the splash section at SeaWorld. But I love that woman, and I liked this movie. I give it a solid 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed June 1, 2016 / Posted June 3, 2016


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