Me Before You
dir Thea Sharrock
scr Jojo Moyes
prd Alison Owen, Karen Rosenfelt
with Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Stephen Peacocke, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance, Brendan Coyle, Samantha Spiro, Matthew Lewis, Jenna Coleman, Vanessa Kirby, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Joanna Lumley
release UK/US 3.Jun.16
16/UK New Line 1h52
Me Before You
Big night out: Claflin and Clarke

mcteer dance coyle
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Me Before You This is a relentlessly emotive story that deliberately pushes every conceivable button, all designed to leave female audience members sobbing uncontrollably. Anyone who's not from the target demographic is hereby warned. If the manipulation was a little less obvious, this might be an enjoyable romantic drama. But it just feels simplistic and derivative.

In an adorable British village dominated by a ruined castle (played by Pembroke), the kooky Louisa (Clarke) has just lost her job as a tearoom waitress, increasing the economic strain on her parents (Coyle and Spiro) and sister (Coleman). With her boyfriend (Lewis) preoccupied with running, Louisa finds a well-paid job with the most prominent couple (McTeer and Dance) in town, caring for their surly son Will (Claflin), who was paralysed in an accident two years earlier. Working with nurse Nathan (Peacocke), Louisa tries to snap Will out of his suicidal depression.

Booth Clarke and Claflin are very strong in the central roles, bravely facing down every corny line of dialog. They also overcome the predictability by developing a real sense of the connection between Louisa and Will as it shifts from awkwardness to respect to love. There isn't a moment in the film that's unexpected, but at least these two actors manage to breathe some life into their cliched characters, grounding their superficial traits in likeability.

Because they're on screen so little, the rest of the cast never quite transcends the single characteristic bestowed by director Sharrock and novelist-turned-screenwriter Moyes. The parents are concerned, the friends are supportive, and everyone is far more perplexed than the audience at the supposedly surprising chain of events. The endearing Lewis has the most thankless role: a nice guy who's clearly doomed to lose Louisa from the moment he appears. Only Peacocke's Nathan feels like a real person, mainly because he seems to have a life when he leaves the frame.

Frankly, it feels like Moyes assembled this entire story from elements lifted from classic weepy romances. There isn't a single original element in the plot. Even the wacky set-pieces have an inevitability to them that undermines any chance to say something meaningful about disability, human decency, suicide or anything else. This leaves all of the characters, including Louisa and Will, feeling like little more than paper cutouts positioned by the filmmakers to echo much better films than this as they manipulate the audience. And viewers who enjoy this kind of movie will love it.

cert 12 themes, language 26.May.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall