“Me Before You” has all the makings of another sappy Nicholas Spark-esque love story, but with invigorating characters and genuine emotion it ends up being something worth watching.
When we meet Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke) she is settled into the routine of daily life — the same life she has always known. But she also needs a job, and she finds one taking care of Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a man who has nothing to live for after recently being paralyzed.
In the beginning, he is cold and distant; but Lou’s infectious smile and warmth defrosts the icy Will. As their relationship grows, they each learn from the other how to live.
While there is nothing in the film’s plot that will surprise anyone, it still feels different than your average falling-in-love-with-a-sick-person story. Most of that difference comes from the performances of Clarke and Claflin.
First off, the chemistry between them is impeccable. In scenes where Lou and Will are hanging out together and having a good time, they act like two people having a good time, inviting the audience to smile and laugh with them. Likewise, when the story turns to sadness and tears, audience response follows suit. Experiencing the full spectrum of emotion along with the characters makes them come alive.
The characters are perfectly paired. Lou is chatty, bubbly and has an eclectic fashion sense. Will is silent, sarcastic and uninterested. Their different personalities make their interactions engaging and sparks life into a story that so often falls into clichés.
Clarke’s and Claflin’s individual performances stand on their own as well. Clarke makes Lou a fun and quirky personality — not something often seen in a romance of this nature — and she’s a joy to watch on screen. She lights up every scene she walks into.
Claflin has a more difficult role in that his character’s movements are limited. But he says it all with his eyes. When Will watches Lou out of the corner of his eye, he has this particular look and a slight movement that somehow says what he’s thinking. Or when he’s telling a joke, his eyebrow raises just a little and to show he’s teasing Lou.
“Me Before You” also succeeds with its use of the camera, such as when it moves with Will in his wheelchair, circling around. It zooms in on the characters as they talk, getting the audience up close and personal to maximize emotion.
“Me Before You” could have been just another “one of those” stories, but instead focuses on gripping characters that tell a story about living life to the fullest. The power and potency of that emotion was obvious as audience members left the theater sniffling and wiping their eyes.