Saturday, June 4
REVIEW: Me Before You
Directed by Thea Sharrock
2016 Romance Drama
1 hour 50 minutes
From MGM and New Line Cinema
My actors-to-watch portfolio is building. Not only have I never seen Emilia Clarke or Sam Claflin in a movie, I've never even heard of them. And I call myself The Movie Man. Ha. Suffice it to say, they've hit my radar now and I'll be paying closer attention.
The truth is I paid attention to this movie the first time I saw the previews. Who in the hell is that, I think I murmured, when I saw him. Oh, they knew what they were doing when they put someone who looks like that in a movie like this one. They knew they'd draw every sucker for a pretty face. Was the first matinee of the first day too soon? Oh stop...
The other side of the coin is that I wasn't sure I was up for an illness movie. By and large they seem right for The Hallmark Channel with cookie-cutter storylines and not particularly for me. But this seemed more than that. I found it to be a warm, thoughtful, not-too-saccharine, mostly dry-eyed, totally engaging story with two bright lead performances and a passel of charming costars.
Will is a handsome young man from a wealthy family who is hit as a pedestrian by a motorcycle and becomes a quadriplegic. He is staying with his concerned parents at their castle and being tended to on a daily basis by a male nurse but what is needed is a caretaker, the right one, who will spend all day with him six days a week. Aren't they lucky-- and aren't we-- that Louisa has come along? She lives nearby with her working-class family, she desperately needs a job and Will's mother rightly senses she is the perfect fit. Kouisa is positive and perky and her upbeat attitude is just what the down, frequently crabby, ready-to-check-out Will needs.
It's a fun journey, figuratively and literally, these two embark on. I won't outline it for you... why take away the fun? It's a tender, heartfelt tale of one person truly caring about the welfare of another. It has a core message that I applaud for its progressive point of view. Let's see what you think if you see it.
What films about sickness require is lead performers who lift us up and out of the maudlin surroundings. The casting must be right if we want the film to work. It worked. Sam Claflin is more than a pretty face. There wasn't a touch of conceit in his performance, it was underplayed in just the right way and he made us care about him and root for him.
The centerpiece is Emilia Clarke. As she brightens Will's life, she brightens ours. What a lovely character Louisa is... so full of joy and integrity and promise. What an expressive face this actress has. She had me eating out of her hand the moment I saw her.
His parents were played by Janet McTeer (whom I've admired since 2000s Songcatcher) and the always elegant if not snooty Charles Dance. They fit their rich-folks roles to perfection and it is touching to see how they handle situations the way their son wishes.
Her parents are played with unbridled enthusiasm by Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates of Downtown Abbey) and a feisty Samantha Spiro.
A big round of applause also goes to Stephen Peacocke as the caring nurse, Jenna Coleman as Louisa's supportive sister and Matthew Lewis as Louisa's boyfriend who sees things a little differently from everyone else.
The screenplay was written by Jojo Moyes, based on her novel that was on the New York Times Bestseller charts for weeks. This was Sharrock's first time up to bat as a theatrical film director and she pulled it off admirably.
Word of mouth should promote a chunk of change for MGM and New Line Cinema.
More handsome... from the 40s