Jojo Moyes’ novel-cum-film Me Before You was released into theatres in Australia on Thursday and I must say, that, after reading the book, I am extremely underwhelmed by the film.
Perhaps I am too serious and too cynical in my movie tastes however the ambience that washes over the scenes in this film is akin to being suffocated by truckloads of treacle and toffee rendering escape impossible.
In dealing with themes of quadriplegia, and assisted dying, and an almost Romeo-and-Juliet-esque star-crossed lovers scenario, Me Before You has left me feeling disappointed and annoyed.
Scenes and dialogue that should have been hard-hitting and grief-inducing completely missed the mark because not only does Emilia Clarke over-act in this film, but director Thea Sharrock has focussed too much on how quirky, and odd, and rambunctious Ms Clarke’s character ought to be, slaughtering every opportunity for any sort of emotional depth.
Metaphorically, I personally felt overwhelmingly engulfed by bales and bales of fairy-floss dialogue and facial expressions, that to me, would have been better suited to a Summer Heights High-esque parody on YouTube. Everything is just far too happy-chappy and light hearted, when assisted dying and the right to choose our deaths over living when a quality of life can no longer be had, is a very real and serious issue in society, and I feel this film makes a mockery of such a raw and emotional part of life.
I am annoyed that Thea Sharrock chose to go down this light-hearted path, thinking the world and film audiences globally were not emotionally intelligent enough to digest a film that could have and should have been, dare I say it, a lot more serious than that of the finished work.
I do commend Sam Claflin’s work in this film, for his portrayal of the main character – a quadriplegic who wishes to die because he feels he will never have the quality of life that he once had. I commend him for the way in which this role forced him into the confines of “less is more”; for the way in which he had but his voice, and his eyes, and a few smiles, here and there, and nothing else, to work with. I am not an actor however it is obvious a high degree of skill was needed in pretending to not feel one’s limbs when one is perfectly able-bodied.
As everyone knows, books are always better than their films, and I can say precisely that about Me Before You. The book was better than the film because there was an emotional rawness and emotional hierarchy in the novel that was absent in the film. In the book, my heart strings were tugged, and I did cry; boy did I cry. I felt emotional and I grieved with Louisa Clarke whilst she fought a losing battle to save a man she loved. The book felt more real and was more convincing. The movie gets lost whilst forcefully trying to aggrandise heartfelt and emotional moments when it should have taken a more subtle approach and relied on more silences and nuance.
I feel Thea Sharrock was afraid of injecting silence into this film, when it would have been harder-hitting. More so than the over-the-top, non-stop chatter between the characters, that, at times, just had me cringing at the ridiculousness of it all.
Three Stars. (Do read the book though.)