Saturday, 18 June 2016

A SURE THING: Me Before You offers up a touching portrait of family and mortality

THE ODD COUPLE: Clarke (as Lou) and Claflin (as Will) sharing a scene from the film.

Fans of The Theory of Everything, the Oscar-winning story of Stephen Hawking and his devoted wife, will probably want to see Me Before You, a well-acted and emotionally charged tearjerker that introduces us to a wealthy young man in the English countryside (who’s given up on life after a road accident leaves him wheelchair-bound) and the heartbroken young girl who will do anything to save him.

A deeply affecting big-screen adaptation of the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes, the film will resonate with anyone who’s ever paid a price for love. With echoes of The Notebook and The Bucket List, Me Before You wades deep into Nicholas Sparks territory but thankfully its emotional heft rings authentic and consistently so.

Emilia Clarke stars as Louisa Clarke, a good girl (if a tad goofy) from a struggling, respectable family who is laid off from her waitressing job at a toast-and-teacakes shop but lands a well-paying rebound gig when Camilla Traynor (Janet McTeer) hires her as a day companion/nurse for Will (Sam Claflin), her wheelchair-bound son.

Fed up with his life ever since the accident damaged his spinal chord and left him paralyzed from the neck down, Will is now perfecting the art of being a sourpuss. Misery loves company. (He subsequently loses his girlfriend to his best friend). But, motivated by the decent pay, Lou refuses to let Will get to her, and her persistence pays off. They soon strike up an adorable friendship which blossoms into ‘something new.’

Louisa is devastated, however, when it is revealed that Will had arranged, with Swiss ‘professionals’ no less, for him to die within six months. Desperate, Louisa and his loved ones hatch a let’s-cheer-him-up-and-change-his-mind-plan, but will their efforts be enough to save Will?

Me Before You is a sad little movie, but there’s lots of humour and touching moments to balance out the heavy dose of sorrow. Versatile actors, Clarke and Claflin, turn in solid performances, with McTeer (who we loved on TV’s Damages) just as strong, expertly playing the mother burdened by grief and guilt. (Charles Dance plays Steven Traynor, the steely patriarch.)

Offering a worthwhile trip to the cineplex, Me Before You is a memorable look at family, despair, longing and how two people, upon entering each other’s lives, are forever transformed by the experience. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

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