Me Before You Review: Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin Shine in This Moving Romantic Drama

Me Before You Review: Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin Shine in This Moving Romantic Drama

Me Before You

Amidst the barrage of superhero sequels and big-budget action movies that are released week after week from May through August, Me Before You is a both a pleasant surprise this summer movie season. The romantic drama, based on the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes and helmed by first-time feature director Thea Sharrock, serves not only as a nice distraction from the constant influx of Hollywood blockbusters that fill the summer months, but it also stands on its own as thoughtful, charming, and, ultimately, uplifting tale of love and life, featuring two terrific lead performances that help make up for any of the movie’s shortcomings.

The two actors delivering those fantastic performances are Game of Thrones‘ Emilia Clarke, who plays the kind and compassionate Louisa Clark, and Sam Claflin (most well-known for his role as Finnick in The Hunger Games series), who stars as the sarcastic and wistful Will Traynor . If you’ve seen a trailer for Me Before You, you know the film’s basic premise: Claflin’s Will is a quadriplegic, and Clarke’s Lou takes on the job of being his caretaker. While the pair don’t get along at first, it’s not too long before they begin to grow closer, falling in love and learning more about life from each other than they have from anyone else before.

When one reads that brief and overly simplistic plot synopsis, it makes Me Before You sound like any other romance film in which one of the main characters is sick or dying, such as A Walk to Remember or The Fault in Our Stars, and it’s true that this film does share some commonalities with both of those movies and many more that have come before them. However, what elevates Me Before You and really makes it something special are its two stars and the chemistry between them; not only do Clarke and Claflin light up the screen anytime they’re together, but there’s an honesty and authenticity that both of them instill in their characters that ensures that Lou and Will feel lived-in and real. Clarke, in particular, stands outs as she brings a warmth and sweetness to Lou that she doesn’t ever get to feature as Daenerys on Game of Thrones, and she never overplays it, always making  Lou’s wacky fashion tastes and can-do attitude feel genuine and not in any way a part of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype.

Furthermore, while there have been some complaints and objections the film’s central conflict and how it resolves at the end (don’t worry: I won’t spoil it here), Me Before You never loses sight of the message it’s trying to convey: that all people should live life to the fullest in the time that they have. This main idea is expressed by both Lou and Will in different ways, but through the relationship they have with one another, they’re able to understand each other’s perspectives. The two of them enjoy new experiences together, both big and small (for example, Lou begrudgingly watches a foreign film with Will and ends up loving it, despite the subtitles), and transform into the best versions of themselves. When two people grow together, reminding each other of the small, joyous wonders of life and creating moments that they believed they’d never get to share , it’s a beautiful thing to witness, and through the story its telling (Me Before You‘s screenplay was written by Moyes) and the superb performances that it features, Me Before You is able to bring that sensation to the big screen in a sweet, tender, and honest way.

Are some of the story beats familiar? Yes. Is everything that happens throughout the film totally realistic? Not necessarily. However, originality and reality aren’t nearly as important when you have emotional authenticity. So very few romance films nowadays care about whether their characters are believable, but at the end of Me Before You, Lou and Will felt like two real people that I got watch fall in love, whose relationship, as cheesy as it sounds, actually inspired me to “live boldly.” I’d say feeling like that, even if it’s only for two hours, is worth the price of a ticket.

Me Before You opens nationwide on Friday, June 3.

[Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures]

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