Warning: This review may contain plot spoilers.
Me Before You, based on best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes, tells a story of a quirky girl named Louisa Clark. Once a waitress at The Buttered Bun cafe, she is forced to find a new job after the cafe is closed by the owner. She accepts a job as a caregiver to quadriplegic patient Will Traynor. Will is a sarcastic, blunt, and cross person, causing friction between him and Louisa. But as the two start to become friends, Louisa is suddenly challenged with ethics and morality, facing her with difficult decisions.
The film was almost two hours long but from the editing, it seemed that the film could have used a few more minutes for clarification. It was obvious that many of the scenes were cut for time, resulting in an awkward progression throughout the movie. It had honestly felt like watching a montage that was two hours long, rather than a film that had a storyline, especially one about a tragic love story.
I’ve never before felt that I’ve actually wasted time on a ten-hour flight back home.
The editing made it seem that the film skipped over many parts. While that’s quite normal for a film adaptation of a book, I feel like many of the scenes would have made no sense had I not previously known the story. In the scenes where Louisa and Will go on a holiday, they’re shown to be having a typical island holiday: lying on beaches, scuba diving, drinking cocktails by the pool. But nowhere does it explain where they actually are. There are many flaws to make in a film — which has already been proven by this one — but failing to explain the setting is possibly one of the worst. It leaves the audience feeling lost, and a film has truly failed if it loses its audience.
Maybe there is a chance to salvage the shoddiness of the film’s editing with the quality of acting. To (re)captivate an audience and create empathy, it is most important to see an actor’s emotions in his or her eyes. Simple, right? But for Emilia Clarke, playing the role of Louisa, the emotions came through her eyebrows before they were seen anywhere else on her face. It was quite difficult to notice if her emotions were conveyed anywhere else; it’s a bit distracting when Clarke’s eyebrows are constantly raised, furrowed, or both.
Judging by her facial expressions, maybe Clarke just chose an interesting approach to portray Louisa; it seems that she had chosen Louisa as a character who is always worried, confused, or apprehensive. But even before the halfway point of the film, Clarke’s portrayal just seemed to be overdone. I will say that it was difficult to see her cry, but mostly because the movement of her brows were more frequent.
It was surprising to discover that the author of the book was also the writer for the screenplay, given the quality of the film. As an author, Moyes has an ability to convey not only clarification but also strong emotion; two elements that failed to convey in the film. However, it is difficult to judge the quality of the screenplay for awkwardness and flaws that were caused by the producers, the editors, and the actors.
Reading Moyes’ book gave the reader an attachment to the two star-crossed lovers. However, it was difficult to empathize with two main characters who lacked chemistry. How I wanted to expect butterflies when watching the gooey romantic scenes I longed for but when they happened, I was left unfazed.
The foundation of the relationship between Louisa and Will was decently explained; the relationship of caregiver and patient was easier to empathize with. However the transition — if there was one — from platonic relationship to romantic relationship, was poorly done. It is essential for a romantic film to include subtle scenes where something more could happen, but it doesn’t happen just yet. Anything from an accidental touch of a hand, an exchange of a pause and a gaze, or a comment that can be interpreted as humor or flirtation. These scenes leaves the audience in anticipation, longing to see what happens next.
The only scene that comes to mind is after the classical concert that Will and Louisa attend. Louisa moves to get out of the car but Will asks her to stay for a few minutes. He tells her, “I just want to be a man who has gone to a concert with a girl in a red dress.” Louisa looks at him, smiles, and watches the scenery through the windshield with Will by her side.
The scene was well-paced and created one of the first tastes of romantic tension seen in the film. But it was shown halfway through the movie, which means that any other romantic moment had to be rushed and sadly, it was. It really is a disappointment to watch a first kiss scene without any tension, progression, or connection.
For a book that nearly made me cry after having finished it, I would have expected its movie to have the same effect. However, by the time the heartbreaking scenes had commenced, I was just anticipating its ending. As one of the most passionate and tragic love stories I have ever read in the book, I was thoroughly disappointed that its film could not follow the same direction and actually be one of the worst romantic films I’ve ever watched.