Embodied with terrific pompousness by “Hunger Games” star Sam Claflin, the actor uses his high cheekbones and peevish eyes to convey everything about the man Will was before the runaway motorcycle accident that crippled him (Claflin reportedly lost a bunch of weight for the role, but even bound to his motorized wheelchair it’s clear that he’s still a strapping physical specimen).She’s poor and provincial, but she has the world at her feet.
This may look like a Nicolas Sparks knockoff, but the difference between “A Walk to Remember” and “Me Before You” is the difference between “2001” and “Chappie.” Louisa Clark (“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke, hardly recognizable without her dragons) is a spirited 26-year-old from a struggling middle-class family.
Essentially a live-action Disney princess, Lou dresses as though she’s channeled all of the excitement that’s missing from her life into her eccentric wardrobe, and she wears her emotions so broadly on her face that she might as well be a human emoji.
Loving can hurt sometimes” — and one that the film negotiates by coating its unflinchingly frank melodrama with a thick layer of Hollywood shine.
But the human element shines through, thanks in large part to Sharrock’s flair for intimacy — most of the movie is set in the excited air between Clark and Claflin’s faces — and the sincerity of her film’s supporting characters, the boyfriend notwithstanding.
Lou never has to confront the ugly physical realities of caring for a severely impaired person, as Will has a kind aide (Aussie actor Stephen Peacoke) who takes care of all the dirty work.
As narratively convenient as that may be, it’s also a reasonable setup for a super-rich man who needs round-the-clock assistance.
Directed with rare intimacy by theater veteran Thea Sharrock (she oversaw the recent revival of “Equus,” fronted by Daniel Radcliffe), “Me Before You” bends some of its genre’s most tiresome tropes into a love story that hits with the blunt impact of a broken heart.
This is a glossy melodrama fit for the multiplexes (Remi Adefarasin’s sparkling cinematography allows the movie to double as a feature-length ad for Wales), but it hits a nerve because Moyes’ story never betrays its characters or what they want from the world, and because the sweetness of its candied telling doesn’t overwhelm the truths at its core.
Moyes and Sharrock, however, have no such excuse when it comes to why their film elides so many of its most traumatic moments.
“Me Before You” isn’t “Amour,” nor does it have to be, but the blunt emotional honesty of its story is only sustained by circumventing so many of the tragic details that might have galvanized Will’s dire situation.