“Me Before You” sounds as if it would be sentimental: a paralyzed young man, a fish-out-of-water girl; classes clash; yada yada yada. But it isn’t maudlin. It’s saved by an authentic voice and characters that aren’t annoying.
I’m not one for sentimentality — I know! How can I say that as a proud-and-out bona fide Hindi film aficionado with a penchant for the Romantics but I draw the line at poor execution, which is often. It takes a mastery of craft and skill to manipulate. Set my heart aflutter but don’t let me know it. Outright manipulation, you know, kids dying, people with handicaps, movies like K3G, and emotions on the surface has a time and place. There’s a gravitas to these lives and the issues at hand need to be respected or in some cases, just best dealt with in satire or humor. As straight drama or even dramedy, it’s hard to write “issues” and tragedies that are affecting millions of lives well, to act it well, and to deal with it with authenticity rather than stock characters and cliches.
The audio book of “Me Before You” (and a best selling book by Jojo Moyes) met the authenticity scale much like “Fault in Our Stars.” It was excellent and the narrators with the location and class specific accents for each of the characters brought the story and people to life. I love narrations of books from the UK, Australia, and other regions because to me the accents of a region bring the story to life, especially when I have no context for them and can’t imagine it merely by reading.
“Me Before You” was a book bound for the movies. When I heard that the Queen of Dragons was going to play the lead, I was like “she’s not normal enough!” But Emilia Clarke comes through, at least as per the trailer. Not a trace of royalty in her as a quirky (in its best definition) working class English girl who reluctantly must care for an even more reluctant patient. The recalcitrant patient played by Sam Claflin, aka Finn from Hunger Games, may be at his best here.There are also several other familiar faces from Downton Abbey and more Game of Thrones cast.
The whole “they-heal-each-other” is also a common trope but done well in the book. It’s a journey I believed and look forward to seeing onscreen.