ME BEFORE YOU
(2016, Thea Sharrock)
[Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures]
[3 out of 5 stars]
One comes to expect a certain routine with rom-coms. It's a genre populated with archetypal characters inside a story you can predict a mile away. To be honest, I was a bit afraid coming in to this movie as it looks like another Nicholas Spark movie. I plead guilty in saying that I have a soft spot with these kind of films but they're tricky to review because there isn't much to say about them.
The narrative is conventional: an energetic but directionless woman, Lou (Emilia Clark), cares for a man, Will (Sam Claflin), who has grown cynical after becoming wheelchair-bound due to a spinal cord injury. You already know where this is going.
But this is a rare instance when a film comes along and plays with the conventions while still manages to strike an emotional chord. In this case, the familiar is comforting instead of wearisome.
This is largely due to Emilia Clark who carries the entire film with her exuberant performance. She instantly lights up a room the moment she enters it. Those expressive eyebrows should win an award. She's not only fun to watch but she's interesting too. At first, it's all surface and this initially irritates Will. She wears rainbow jumpers and awkwardly frisks about in cute, colourful heels. Her room is decorated like a three-dimensional manifestation of a quirky Instagram feed. But you realise, as Will does later, that this is her form of expression and an indication of a potential she hasn't realised yet. Like an age-old fairytale, ebullience wins over misery and they fall in love.
Director Thea Sharrock has a knack of placing the camera right where, or looking to, where the intimacy is and lingering there just enough. The camera pans down to hands being held, the kisses are slow and shot in profile close-up. There's also a nice touch where she mounts the camera on the wheelchair as Lou sits on Will's lap while they dance. It feels like we too are sitting on Sam Claflin's lap (I'm not complaining) and we are dancing with them.
Like a good spooning session, this movie is a little cliche, but its comforts are welcomed.