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There’s a big market out there for romantic tearjerkers based on hit novels. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a handful of them hit screens, though notably the “blockbuster” among them all has been two years ago’s The Fault in Our Stars. This week’s new release Me Before You looks to be the next in that line, mixing romance with sadness. Personally, I don’t think they’re in the same league, but Me Before You is effective enough to have an audience, especially considering its original source as a bestselling novel. It’s not awards worthy or anything of the sort, but if you fancy a cry, you definitely can do worse.
The film, as mentioned above, is an adaptation of the bestseller of the same name. It centers on the happy go lucky small town girl Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke), as well as the wealthy Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). Will has been paralyzed in an accident that happened about two years ago, leading his parents Camilla and Stephen (Janet McTeer and Charles Dance, respectively) to hire a companion for the now depressed young man. You see, Will was once a virile captain of industry, so he hasn’t taken this bad fortune well at all. Enter Lou, who needs the money to help

her struggling family and takes an instant liking to Will. That isn’t initially reciprocated, but soon they’ve got a very deep relationship blossoming. Obviously, something dark is on the horizon, but in the here and now, they’re improving each other’s lot in life. Thea Sharrock directs from a script written by Jojo Moyes, who also penned the source material (though initially the team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber were adapting). Also in the cast we have the likes of Jenna Coleman, Brendan Coyle, Vanessa Kirby, Matthew Lewis, Stephen Peacocke, Samantha Spiro, and more.

Clarke’s performance more or less saves this for me, as the whole thing never really gets into that next gear. I came close to crying once or twice, but that was as much due to the soundtrack cues as anything on the screen. Clarke though, does stand out, playing this quirky ray of sunshine in the role that is Lou. As written, the part could have been annoying or off putting, but she really makes it work. Claflin is less successful on his end, failing to make Will a memorable character. He tries, but he’s just given very little to work with. It’s a decent movie made better by Clarke, plain and simple.

I know some are getting caught up in a certain choice made by one of the characters in the third act of Me Before You, but I think it’s making a mountain out of a molehill. To be sure, I’m not disparaging anyone’s beliefs and pretty much can understand where the protest is coming from, but this is the wrong target. The movie isn’t strong enough to be of any impact, so making this the bridge to die on seems silly. That’s just my two cents though, and I’m not going tell anyone that they’re wrong to feel a certain way.

Overall, this weekend’s release of Me Before You is not going to especially appeal to anyone who doesn’t like to have a good cry, but if that’s the sort of movie you flock to, it just might do the trick. It’s many steps down from The Fault in Our Stars, but it’s better than some weaker efforts like My Sister’s Keeper, A Walk to Remember, and so on. Clarke is the main selling point here, so make of that what you will. You probably can do a lot better than this film this week, but you also can do a lot worse, so keep that in mind…

Be sure to check out Me Before You, in theaters tomorrow!

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