Review: Me Before You

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

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PLOT: A working class girl (Emilia Clarke) is hired to be a caregiver for an aristocratic paraplegic (Sam Claflin).

REVIEW: Imagine INTOUCHABLES if the paralyzed aristocrat was twenty years younger, the sassy caregiver was a gorgeous twenty something lady and instead of becoming best buds, the two fell madly in love. That’s ME BEFORE YOU in a nutshell. Based on the best-selling novel by Jojo Moyes (who adapts her own work here), this is the kind of tearjerker that should become a date night staple and a smart piece of counter-programming that will pay off handsomely, even if the movie itself is only slightly above average for the genre.

me before you sam claflin emilia clarke

One thing it’s not – thank God – is another Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Infused with some cheeky English humor and wit, ME BEFORE YOU is the cinematic equivalent of a comfy sweater or a hot bowl of soup on a cold day. It’s designed to make you feel good and not much else, and while it’s utterly predictable and assembly-line in its cuteness, I must admit it that overall it can’t help but work. Basically, the two characters bicker and hate each other until they – inevitably – fall madly in love. He introduces her to the joys of high-end aristocracy and subtitled films, while she melts his icy exterior and teaches him that life can still be worth living despite his condition.

The biggest boost comes from stars Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. While Clarke’s struggled to break-out of her Game of Thrones warrior mode, ME BEFORE YOU proves to be a nice change-of-pace. The trailers made her look a tad insufferable, basically an English variation on the manic pixie dream girl trope, but in the film itself she works rather well. It’s a breezy, upbeat part that’s far removed from Daenerys Targaryen and proves her versatility. This also proves to be a departure for Claflin, who – in movies like CATCHING FIRE – is usually pigeonholed in hunk mode. Here he gets to convey some of his character’s anger at having the physical prime of his life stolen from him, although in a concession to Hollywood he inexplicably maintains his six-pack abs after being rendered a quadriplegic.

me before you sam claflin emilia clarke

Fitting the picturesque, English setting is the supporting cast, which is liberally peppered with British TV favorites, including Downton Abbey’s Brendan Coyle as Clarke’s nice-guy dad, Doctor Who’s cute-as-a-button Jenna Coleman and Clarke’s Game of Thrones co-star Charles Dance as Claflin’s dad. Oscar nominee (for ALBERT NOBBS) Janet McTeer fares best of all as Claflin’s mom, who fears her son may be giving up on life and smothers him with concern.

Of course, this is a big-studio romantic comedy-drama, meaning there’s tons of fluff, including Clarke’s relationship with her lunk-headed boyfriend (Matthew David Lewis) and an inevitable ending that gives Clarke too convenient an escape from her working-class lifestyle. Maybe if Claflin’s character hadn’t been a castle-dwelling rogue ME BEFORE YOU might have been more compelling, but I expect the audience wants an escape and that’s what this provides. Overall, it’s not a bad piece of schmaltz and sure enough the packed Thursday-night audience I saw this with was loaded with women audibly weeping throughout the conclusion – always a good sign.

Me Before You



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.