Spoilers! I put in the title my feelings on the film and I strongly encourage you to not support Me Before You. But I will be talking spoilers in this review if you do decide to see it. You’ve been warned.
I wasn’t going to see Me Before You because I hated the book. We read it for book club last October and I found it extremely manipulative and disturbing. My goodreads review is here but I will share with you some highlights:
“I’m sorry but I thought this book was terrible. It was like a Nicholas Sparks novel but more incompetently written”
“The dialogue was cringe worthy.The story was something you’d see on a bad soap opera but without the campy fun those can have”
“The ending was unpardonable…I am strongly against assisted suicide but usually when it is argued it is people who have a terminal illness. Not a man who has special needs but openly admits to being able to live a perfectly happy life. That’s called regular suicide”
Yep, it sucked as a book, so how is it as a movie?
It does some things better. Author and now screenwriter Jojo Moyes does a better job with the dialogue in the film than in the book. It’s still trite and obvious but there were a few laughs, a few genuine moments.
Also she makes the supporting characters, particularly Lou’s family and sister and Will’s family much better characters. In the book Lou’s family are judgemental and awful and Will’s family are kind of dumb.
I also thought the chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin was decent and I don’t mind that the building romance between them is predictable.
BUT THAT’S WHERE MY PRAISE STOPS
I would like to quote Dr Shane Clifton a quadriplegic who wrote an essay entitled ‘Why I Hate JoJo Moye’s Me Before You“:
“Actually, the book is about a quadriplegic who wants to die, and at the end of the book chooses to do so – despite the fact that he found love and had a loving and supporting family, and so had an amazing opportunity to live a full and flourishing life. He was, after all, as rich as is a bottle of fine whiskey, and could have afforded any number of compensations to manage life with a disability– unlike most quadriplegics who are poor, but still choose to live.
So let’s not beat around the bush. This is a book celebrating suicide. Worse, it’s a book that presumes that suicide is the only rational response to the experience of living with quadriplegia”
The lead character in the novel and film, Will Traynor, used to be a big athletic stud and in an accident is now a quadriplegic. He is depressed about his new body and tells his parents he is going to undergo “assisted suicide” if you can call it that in 6 months.
The parents hire local manic pixie dream girl Lou to cheer him up and of course she’s nutty and wears cooky clothes. And of course he hates her at first but darn if she isn’t just so charming.
Eventually she makes his life worth living but that’s not enough for him. He still decides to go through with the suicide because she would eventually grow to regret him. And then he gives her his inheritance so she can go “live well” without him!
I’m sorry but I find that extremely offensive.
Again I quote from Mr Clifton:
“Now, before you get on your high horse and remind me that some people do choose to die, and that’s their right, let me say that I understand that quadriplegia is downright hard to live with, and many people have it much harder than I do. And the person that chooses suicide has my compassion and support.
But I’m not going to celebrate that choice.”
My best friend has been horribly impacted by suicide and it is not the dramatic moving finale to a love story. I’m sorry. When it is chosen as an end to pain and suffering it is typically by someone who has a terminal illness. Not someone who is seen enjoying time at the beach days before the deed is done.
The book is even worse because Lou’s mother states her natural objections to the plan and she is treated like a complete jerk. Here that is only briefly mentioned. There is no room within the story to disagree with the choices. That’s what makes it especially manipulative.
What I find amazing is never once is Will shown what good he can do with his life, especially with how rich he is. He could be such an inspiration to those with disabilities. He could start a foundation and share his experiences with the world. No, he’s just taken to a classical music concert and told that should make him want to live! He’s given no objectives or life goals so of course he feels that life without all the ‘fun’ he used to have is meaningless.
Also, why does he have to stay away from work? That is made a big deal of in the movie. His coworkers are getting married and talking about their fancy careers. He couldn’t sit behind a desk and make calls at least part time? I mean the situation they set him in seems ridiculous when you really think about it. He’s more bored than anything else.
They throw in that he keeps getting pneumonia and has pain but again is suicide really the answer? Even those who aren’t religious I can’t understand endorsing suicide as a valid option for Will.
It’s just an example of how little questions this film asks. It states a situation- Will wants to die because he is a quadriplegic but they dont properly debate all angles of that situation. In the world of this movie suicide is a valid, even moving life choice that Will should be allowed to make as a gift to his family. It’s awful stuff
They even passed out little packages of tissues at my screening. No thank you! I would have rather had a megaphone so I could yell at the screen!
It’s downright dangerous this film and I really was offended by it. Sure it looks glossy and has pretty people in it but the message is horrible.
I would not have gone to see Me Before You if it hadn’t been a free screening. Please don’t support this film. It’s offensive to those with disabilities and it should be offensive to us able-bodied folks too. Life is precious and just because you have great challenges doesn’t mean your story is over. Why not celebrate the unique opportunities available to the disabled and the new purpose it can give you?
In addition, it’s just not that good of a movie. It’s a dopey romance at best with like I said the classic manic pixie dream girl character.
I’ll end with Dr Clifton’s final words:
I hope that you notice that it reinforces the stereotype that women need a man to tell them what to do, and that you understand that our playboy hero is really a privileged white guy who just can’t come to terms with the fact that life is fragile and difficult but that if you fight the good fight and persevere it’s worth it in the end.
I give Me Before You a D- because I think it did improve upon the book a little bit but it’s awful. DON’T SEE IT!!!
My youtube review