Ellen Inggrid Dengah- Staff Writer
Me Before You is a controversial 2016 British movie based on a novel with the same title by Jojo Moyes. The controversy is caused by how this story handles death and physical disability. Most people – myself included – are bothered by the fact that (spoiler alert) the main disabled character dies so that his love interest can “live boldly”—so says the promotional catch of the movie.
To be honest, most parts of the story are easy to enjoy— up until the sickly artificial moment when Lou (Emilia Clarke) cries over the fact that she can’t change Will’s (Sam Clafin) mind about his desire to attempt assisted suicide.
The supposedly heartbreaking scene by the beach is sickening because Lou does not address the real problem that this guy has. Will has a hard time accepting himself and does not want to live despite the joy of living that Lou is trying to show him, but everybody in this movie has overlooked that problem.
We don’t know what exactly pushed him to kill himself. Even when he opens up to Lou, we are not provided with a candid moment on why is he so insistent on killing himself.
Will’s decision is never talked about – at least, it’s not discussed further than his grief over his previous life and his unwillingness to be a burden for other people. Me Before You ends with Lou reading a letter from Will saying that he has to die so that Lou can live freely, amplifying the message that Will is a burden.
For a movie whose character’s decision to end his life drives the plot forward, how false is it that to conclude his death—to put meaning or closure into Will’s death—the audience has to watch Lou be free because Will is dead?
I’m not saying that Lou shouldn’t move forward. However, for a movie that sets the audience up with the hint that Lou prefers Will instead of her physically superior boyfriend, how can the significance of Will’s death only amount to checks that Will wills to Lou in order to provide her financial freedom and opportunities to find another guy like the ex that she sacrificed for the living Will?
She wasn’t happy with her ex, even though he was physically healthy; thus, Will’s argument that he can’t be “the one” for her because of his physicality does not make sense when it is said right after Lou left her boyfriend to be with him.
Maybe the writer wants to make a point that Lou cannot or should not change Will’s mind about committing suicide. But if the writer is saying that “romance cannot save a life,” then Will’s argument to defend his decision about ending his life has to be stronger than just, “I can’t make
you happy, Lou.” If a romantic affair with Lou cannot save Will’s life, then this affair should not even be discussed when Will is trying to justify his decision to end his life.
The story is confused about what to tell us regarding the importance of romance and what actually drives one’s life. As a result, the audience cannot see why is Will so set in stone about his decision to end his life. In this film, the plot’s causality is nowhere to be found, and the characters’ motivation is swallowed up by cheap, shallow romance.
Putting that aside, what enraged me the most is how nobody in the movie ever tries to convince Will that his life is valuable in spite of what he can or cannot do. Lou sets up trips to concerts and resorts so he can find joy, when what he actually wants is a normal human experience (like going to a concert with a woman wearing a red dress) and a real connection with her.
His mom is never seen by his side during his darkest times in the movie. Instead, in response to her son’s decision to end his life, she hires a pretty caretaker for him. This doesn’t mean that she does not care about him, but it is an excruciatingly shallow and uninvolved choice.
Despite Will’s selfishness and his rejection of other people’s attempt to love him, you’ve got to be kidding me when you say that a solution to his suicide attempt is travel and pretty girls.
Yes, travelling is fun and enjoyable for Will, but that’s not what gives meaning to his life, is it? I don’t think that’s what gives meaning to his glorious past, either. But still, I don’t know what that past is, because the movie doesn’t care to explain it.
Watching Me Before You is like eating delicious bunny tracks ice cream in a cone that is made of poo. Their romance, actor chemistry, intentional directing and cute, meaningful costumes are the bunny tracks ice cream that is unfortunately founded on a crappy philosophy.
It’s not that the story itself is gag-worthy; it’s the story’s shallow approach to what a life worth living looks like that makes it unbearable and ultimately offensive for a physically-disabled audience.