Blu-ray Review: Me Before You

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Save for one key element, the romantic drama Me Before You works better than its admittedly thin narrative probably had any right to. Now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD (via Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), this adaptation of Jojo Moyes' novel of the same name soars on the strength of two fine lead performances. Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) is especially luminous as Louisa Clark, a down-on-her-luck British homebody who takes a job as a "companion" to a quadriplegic man. That man, Will Traynor, is played by Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games series). Both create endearing, believable characterizations, aided by sharp dialogue (Moyes adapted her own source novel). More on that one key negative element later.

Will was once a vivacious, physically-active ladies man—a freak traffic accident robbed him of his mobility. Let's make this clear: we don't see anything more than a mere sketch of Will before the accident. This happens too quickly and the sullen, depressed, wheelchair user we soon meet would stand in sharper contrast had we spent more time with pre-accident Will. That aside, Claflin palpably demonstrates Will's encompassing bitterness. His parents (nicely underplayed by Janet McTeer and Charles Dance, both of whom deserving of more screen time) have hired a series of companions for their son in hopes he will emerge from his dark mindset. 
me before you 1.jpg Louisa lives with her parents and siblings (including Jenna Coleman of Doctor Who fame, also underutilized here). Her family is experiencing tough times and, desperate for any decent-paying job, Louisa begins "working" for the Traynor family. At first this amounts to sitting around their vast castle home, since Will refuses to engage in conversation. Since he already has a physical therapist, Louisa's function is simply to try being Will's "friend." How does an attractive young female, who has a long-term boyfriend at home—marathon-runner Patrick (Matthew Lewis)—befriend a lonely, self-loathing single man? The relationship that develops between Louisa and Will, whose heart eventually melts at the genuine kindness and good-spiritedness of his new companion, is believable and touching. 
me before you 2.jpg Read no further if you've not seen the film, this is a major spoiler alert—and a big caveat in recommending Me Before You. Will has determined to end his own life via assisted suicide in Switzerland. Opinions will vary based on any given individual's personal philosophy on euthanasia. Regardless of how one may feel about physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients, the fact here is that Will is living a relatively good quality of life given the unalterable circumstances of his condition. His family has money (not to mention a great deal of love for him). He's fallen in love with a woman who feels the same about him. I'm not going to pretend to have an inkling about what life as a quadriplegic is life. But I can't shake the feeling that Will does have some things that would make his life worth living.

Tragic endings are certainly not unacceptable, but to work well in Me Before You the graveness of Will's choice needed to be treated with far, far greater weight. Maybe even met with outright anger by Louisa, who seems too complacent in her acceptance. Unfortunately (and probably unintentionally) the message we're left with seems to be that Will's life as a disabled individual isn't valid. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, it seems he still had numerous positive aspects of his life. If nothing else, the ending will likely spark discussions.

me before you BD (292x380).jpg Warner Bros.' Blu-ray presentation is reliably strong, as usual, with a 1080p high definition transfer of Remi Adefarasin's cinematography (Adefarasin was Academy Award-nominated in '98 for Elizabeth) and a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix.

Special features are light: a six-minute "From Page To Screen" featurette discusses the transition from book to film, six minutes of unremarkable deleted scenes, and a two-minute gag reel (consisting mainly of the cast pulling "funny" faces).

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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