Magazine article Variety

Me before You

Magazine article Variety

Me before You

Article excerpt

Me Before You

Director: Thea Sharrock

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer, Charles Dance

Imagine "The Intouchables" with more romance and less chemistry, crossbred with a far tamer version of "Pretty Woman" so lacking in eroticism that its PG-13 rating seems unduly harsh, and you're halfway toward picturing Thea Sharrock's "Me Before You."

Pairing a working-class British lass with an icy, quadriplegic aristocrat whose heart she's been hired to melt, "Me Before You" would seem to boast a can't-miss premise - class divides and medical misfortune being the peanut butter and jelly of tear-jerking romance. But Sharrock's technically sound yet workmanlike direction never sells the emotional peaks and troughs, the characters are alternately too exaggerated and too buttoned-down to come to life, and the resolution pushes the film into morally provocative territory that it has neither the inclination nor the courage to confront.

That said, considering the popularity of Jojo Moyes' bestselling source novel (she adapts her own work here), and the dearth of big-hearted romantic dramas that are Hollywood's most reliable datenight draws, the film ought to do solid business, burnishing the rising careers of its stars, Emilia Clarke ("Game of Thrones") and Sam Claflin ("The Hunger Games" movies).

Though Clarke is the clear protagonist, Claflin is the star of the film's first reel. Here he's cast as Will Traynor, a debonair London financier from a family rich enough to own its own castle, who spends his spare time skiing, windsurfing, cliff-diving, and bedding flashy women. In spite of these high-risk pursuits, he's horribly injured the one time he tries to play it safe: Opting against taking his motorcycle to work on a rainy morning, he's hit by a bike while crossing the street and left paralyzed.

Two years later, we find ourselves in an unnamed English country town, backgrounded at all times by the looming Traynor castle in the distance. Twentysix-year-old Louisa "Lou" Clark (Clarke) has lived here all her life, helping support her large extended family as a waitress. She's burdened with a limp noodle of a boyfriend (Matthew Lewis), who ignores her.

Guileless, naïve, and accident-prone, Lou is such a ray of sunshine that her offer to wrap up a customer's leftover sandwich elicits the sort of reaction you'd usually see from recent lottery winners, but she's thrown for a loop when her quaint tea shop closes down.

Heading to the unemployment office, she's assigned a lucrative temp position at the Traynor mansion. The job, essentially, is to be a paid companion for Will, who now sports scraggly hair, a beard, and an arsenal of withering quips. As the script is a bit too quick to note, her position doesn't require her to do any of the real heavy lifting that caring for a quadriplegic demands, with bathroom and bathing duties handled by a hunky nurse (Stephen Peacocke). No, as Will's imperious mother (Janet McTeer) and kindly father (Charles Dance) explain, she's there to cheer him up.

Like too many filmic depictions of good-hearted lower-class people, Lou is clearly meant to be relatably ordinary, but instead comes across as frustratingly dim, if not emotionally stunted: She is equally aghast by the notion that her caregiver job requires her to occasionally dispense medication as she is by the revelation that Will watches films that require subtitles. …

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