Me Before You (3 stars)

Me Before You

Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke are thrown together in a largely effective weepie

Thea Sharrock’s Me Before You is a good old-fashioned weepie in the mould of Beaches, based on the bestseller from British novelist Jojo Moyes. This romantic drama follows two mismatched souls who are thrown together – only this time one of them is confined to a wheelchair. As we discover, Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) was an active, healthy young man with a great job and a beautiful fiancée, until a motorbike hit him, leaving him paralysed.

Despite coming from a wealthy family able to provide him with the best of care, Will is embittered by his state. At their wits end, his parents (Janet McTeer, Charles Dance) hire the bubbly Lou (Emilia Clarke) to look after him. A former waitress with no real experience, she flounders at first, but her sunny outlook gradually seeps through Will’s cynical veneer. Yet, in spite of blossoming feelings, he seems determined to end his life at the Swiss assisted dying facility, Dignitas.

Not so much a ‘will they won’t they?’ as a ‘will he won’t he?’, the script has been carefully adapted by Moyes herself. Director Sharrock – who makes her film debut after a distinguished theatre career – gives gloss to the narrative, which doesn’t always sit well with its darker elements (the Traynors’ castle-estate just seems silly and Lou’s ‘funky’ wardrobe irritates).

Yet Sharrock’s stage experience means she knows how to draw credible work from her cast. True, Clarke appears to have trouble controlling her eyebrows, in the numerous close-ups she’s subjected to. But she’s a warm, watchable presence, while Claflin is excellent, modulating his performance with real skill. And, for all the Richard Curtis-like primary colours, it’s hard to hold back the tears for a story that has the courage of its convictions.

General release from Fri 3 Jun.

Me Before You

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 50min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Thea Sharrock
  • Cast: Emilia Clarke, Jenna Coleman, Sam Claflin

A small town girl forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she's taking care of.