I’ll start off this review of Me Before You by admitting to something: I wasn’t prepared for how good the movie would be. Based on the marketing I reviewed last year I thought it would be a fairly by-the-numbers emotional tear-jerker that wouldn’t surprise me at all. My conclusion was that Warner Bros. knew the audience they were going after would just want a good cry and everything would act in service to that goal.
The story is focused around Lou (Emilia Clarke), a bright spirit in a small English town who sees the best in every person and every situation. After she’s let go from the shop she works at she takes a job acting as an emotional companion of sorts to Will Traynor, successful young businessman from a wealthy family who years ago was injured in an accident and is now a paraplegic. Her job is not take care of him medically but to try and lift his spirits. It takes a while but her formidable spirit eventually breaks through his depression and the two form not just a friendship but also a romantic connection. There are multiple complications that up the emotional factors, but it’s Lou’s presence that helps Will feel a bit like his old self again.
The campaign focused largely a couple scenes from the movie: A wedding and a concert the two attend. Both feature the budding couple in their finest tux and dresses, respectively. The intent was to present the story as a fairytale of sorts, where the lowly towns girl becomes something glamorous as she falls in love with the rich good-looking guy.
The movie itself is much more than that, though. Sure, there’s a big chunk of it that fills into that category, but it completely overlooks just how charming and essential Clarke’s performance as Lou is to the story. This doesn’t work nearly as well if she’s not as luminescent as Lou, putting megawatts of energy into every turn and step the character takes. The story succeeds or fails depending on how much you empathize with Lou and want her to succeed and Clarke’s performance can’t help but get you rooting for her.
Still, she never fully gives into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. Sure, she waxes nostalgic about an old pair of black-and-yellow striped tights she once had and dresses in the most colorful, unique way she can. What Clarke does differently than some who do fall into the MPDG trap is that she makes that wardrobe a more full part of the character, not its defining aspect. It’s only because Clarke seems to know where Lou’s heart is that we care as much as we do.
Me Before You is streaming on Amazon Prime now and is recommended if you need a nice, funny, romantic way to spend a couple hours.