In this era of amazing computer-generated special effects, it’s easy to make an audience believe that a man can fly or that giant alien spaceships can show up around the globe. It’s far more difficult to make an audience believe that two people have fallen in love.
But that’s what Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin accomplish in the big-screen adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ best-selling book “Me Before You.”
“Me Before You” isn’t a complicated story. Clarke (best known as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO series Game of Thrones) plays Lou Clark, a young woman hired to be a caretaker for the paralyzed Will Traynor (Claflin). The pair seem exact opposites as Lou embraces life with a death grip passion and Will embraces the idea of death giving him an escape from the immovable prison he inhabits.
The film works because Clarke makes you believe in the magnificence and beauty of life. She emits love with a single look. She’s both captivating as the quirky companion with the outlandish wardrobe and as the vulnerable young woman who clings to the idea that love can fix all problems.
Claflin’s performance is equally as powerful, despite the limitations of playing a character who can only move his right hand. He’s the most charismatic love interest in a British film since the peak of Hugh Grant’s charming days. It’s Will’s charm that makes his decisions about his life all the more impossible for Lou to accept.
Director Thea Sharrock (“Call the Midwife”) doesn’t waste the natural connection between the two actors, allowing them to spend a massive amount of time together alone. Their moments range from a hurried wheelchair trek through the family castle to their first real date.
There is a sweetness and sadness to the way Will tries to extend their evening by asking if he can sit “with a girl in a red dress” for a little longer. The scene is both a touching reminder of the passions that still exist in the character and the agony that comes with not being able to pursue those things that once made him the happiest.
“Me Before You” could have become entangled in deep political and philosophical discussions about how precious life is even when circumstances change so dramatically. Whether it is his parents’ reactions or the relentless way Lou tries to show the wonders of the world, the film comes down to one very human decision.
It helps that the script was adapted by Moyes, who authored the book upon which the movie is based. The path she carved out while writing the book remains the deepest and most engaging of them all.
The story has a purity when it comes to love. It is definitely the kind of movie that should be seen with someone special.
Add a strong supporting cast, particularly Jenna Coleman as Lou’s sister and Janet McTeer and Charles Dance as Will’s parents, and “Me Before You” is so beautifully presented it’ll be difficult not to fall in love with the film.