Me Before You- A Review
As a lifelong hopeless romantic who has also been disabled since birth, I should have loved Me Before You. Me Before You, based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, is what I like to call “the classic disabled person’s love story.” A story in which a severely physically disabled man, Will Traynor, (Sam Clafin) falls in love with his carer, Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke). She returns his feelings, even ending a long-term relationship to be with him.
I would have loved Me Before You if that had been where the story ended. I love to see disabled lead characters in mainstream movies. I love it even more when I get to see those characters falling in love and having their feelings returned. I want the whole world to know that that does happen. Mainstream cinema has the power to show the whole world that.
As a lifelong Home And Away fan, I was pleased when I heard that Steve Peacocke, better known to me as Darryl “Brax” Braxton, was playing Will Traynor’s nurse, Nathan. His medium sized role added a lot to the movie. I would have loved the fact that the cinema was packed with teenage girls enjoying his performance- if Me Before You had been a simple fluffy romance with, for me, the simple added bonus of a wheelchair on screen.
However, Me Before You is more than just a fluffy romance. Because Will Traynor, a man so rich he owns and lives in an English castle, hates his life since becoming disabled in a motorbike accident two years ago. Will Traynor hates his life so much, in fact, that he wants to end it by assisted suicide at Dignitas.
He has given his parents six months, so his mother hires Lou Clark to keep him company, cheer him up and, she hopes, change his mind. Lou Clark does her best, before and after falling in love with him. As someone who strongly opposes assisted suicide, I would have loved Me Before You if Lou Clark had succeeded in changing Will Traynor’s mind.
However, she didn’t succeed. Will tells her that even falling in love with her was not enough to change his mind. Exactly six months after they meet, Lou Clark very reluctantly joins Will Traynor in a room at a place viewers assume is Dignitas. The night before his life ends, they share one last kiss in the middle of a thunderstorm.
The movie ends with Lou in a café in Paris, where Will has told Lou to go in his last letter, in which he also tells her to ‘live boldly.’
I would have loved Me Before You if Will Traynor had only tried, for longer than a couple of holidays- for longer than a couple of years, to live boldly himself, even with a physical disability.
Me Before You could have provided a positive role model for disabled children, and adults who become disabled, in Will Traynor. Me Before You could have shown non disabled people that becoming disabled doesn’t have to be negative- that people who become disabled can still do most of the things they used to do, including falling in love, after becoming disabled. I would have loved Me Before You, if only it had done these things.
If only Will Traynor had lived, Me Before You could have been packed with positive messages about what life with a disability is like. About what my life is like. I would have loved Me Before You, if only Will Traynor hadn’t gone to Dignitas.
Instead, Me Before You showed a packed cinema full of teenagers that physical disability is a fate worse than death in a foreign country. To those of you sitting at your computers at this very moment screaming ‘it’s only fiction!’ I say that’s the whole problem.
It is only fiction. But fiction, in particular mainstream cinema, has a great deal of power. Fiction has the power to make a minority group feel accepted and wanted and included in society, if fiction chooses to represent that group positively. Fiction has the power to educate the general public about anything it chooses, in any way it chooses. Fiction has the power to make its audiences change their minds about the issues fiction covers.
The whole problem is that mainstream cinema has the power to reach massive audiences. Particularly when its stars have come from TV institutions like Game of Thrones and Home And Away.
I wanted to love the story of a severely disabled, good looking man falling in love. I wanted to love Me Before You. However, while the hopeless romantic in me could never hate a love story, the disabled person in me could never love a story which represented my life as a fate worse than death.
I have spent a lot longer than two years- my whole life in fact, trying to ‘live boldly’ with a physical disability. That’s why I couldn’t love Me Before You– even though I wanted to.