If You Love Me, Don’t Let Go
Me Before You, a romantic film directed by Thea Sharrock, is not your average love story, but will still leave you in tears. Yes, the film has the typical poor girl who works, in this instance as a caregiver, for a man of wealth and soon the two fall in love. Now you are probably wondering why our prince needs a caregiver… Is he older? Younger? A dog? However, this prince charming, Will Traynor (Sam Clafin) happens to be paralyzed from the head down due to a terrible accident that occurred two years prior. Will was once a young man engaged to a beautiful woman, extremely wealthy thanks to his family inheritance, with a successful career and not a care in the world except which mountain he was going to hike next. This was indeed Will Traynor’s life, until one day as he was crossing the street on his way to work, a motorcyclist did not see him and BAM, his life was changed forever (oh and his financee decides to marry his best friend later in the story…). This drastic life change has left Will feeling hostile and bitter towards the world and those around him. Due to the accident, Will is stuck in bed or his scooter for the remainder of his time on Earth. His mother Camilla (Janet McTeer) and father Stephen (Charles Dance) want nothing but the best for their 30 year old son. However, much of Will’s time is spent simply sitting in his home (which is adjoined to his parents’). While watching the movie I was left feeling sorry for Will. You could easily tell each morning as he woke up he did not want to take on another day, this was heartbreaking to see. The family is extremely close to giving up, as they no longer know how to cheer Will up, until a young girl, close to Will’s age, Lou (Emilia Clarke) applies for the care giving position for their son. Now let’s start off by mentioning that Lou is by no means your average caregiver. This is evident from the moment Camilla lays eyes on Lou for an interview. With her bold fashion statements whether that be, bumble bee tights, rainbow sweaters, or sparkly green shoes, I, along with many others, probably did not expect for Camilla to offer Lou the job on the spot. However at this moment I believe Will’s mom was desperate and having someone as outgoing, and quirky as Lou may have given her the slightest of hope that her son may find a reason to live again.
And I quite literally mean a reason to live, as Will has been in touch with a facility in Switzerland that offers assisted suicide. This idea of assisted suicide has raised lots of conflict between viewers of the film, both with disabilities and those without. With assisted suicide now offered in many countries around the globe, through Will, this film introduces a personal testimony of a reason someone may choose or wish to end their life. He was once a man who scaled rock faces at Yosemite, who swam in many volcanic springs and now he is essentially left with little power and control over his own life. He can no longer feed himself, dress himself, or have sex. Being a man of power for so long, he feels the only power he has left is having the choice to end his now miserable life. Although the topic of taking one’s life is chilling and extremely sad, I agree with Will’s viewpoint. This is virtually the last decision he is able to make as the accident has taken almost everything from him. I believe he should not have to go through life suffering because of an accident he had no control over. It is important to remember that Will is immobile from the waist down, but his brain is still fully functioning. With this being said, although those close to him may not agree, he deserves to end his life if he wishes. However, many do not agree with myself and the message Will portrays, the ideology that death is better than living with a disability. This message offends many people across the globe that have disabilities and those who know people with disabilities who are happy as ever with life. I believe each person is different and if they have the mental ability to decide what is best for them, they should be granted the freedom to do so. Will’s case is unlike those who are born with disabilities because he was once a completely functioning human and now has to live with consequences that were not his fault. Could you imagine waking up each day reminded of a horrifying accident you had no control over? I know I couldn’t.
However when Lou first takes the job, she is completely unaware of Will’s desire to eventually take his life. From the very first day on the job she spends endless time and effort trying to make Will hold the slightest of conversation with her but he continuously turns her down. While I watched this scene I asked myself why Lou hadn’t just given up? However that is not how Lou rolls. She really believes that she is making an impact in his life and that he is on hers in return, even if the progress is minimal, or nonexistent some days. Overtime the two finally start hitting it off. Will and Lou begin to have genuine conversation of their early childhood and even take a stroll through the Traynor’s estate, something Will hasn’t done since the accident. All is well in the life of Will and Lou until one day, she overhears Mr. and Mrs. Traynor arguing over a letter in the mail from the Switzerland assisted suicide organization. Lou is heartbroken. We are able to see the pain and bewilderment in her eyes as she hears this news. She no longer knows how to act around Will, as she cannot wrap her mind around why he would want to die. After many late nights of going home from work and crying, she calls her sister to explain Will’s situation. This talk is exactly what Lou needs. Her sister helps her realize that if Will’s decision is set, she might as well make the best of the time he has left on earth. She spends countless hours researching a “bucket list” of adventures for the two of them. As she is doing this, in the back of her mind Lou is hoping she will be able to change Will’s views. Her ultimate goal is to help him realize how incredible this life really is despite the disability. Throughout the remainder of the film as the two go on these adventures (or as I saw them “dates”), to the horse races, symphony orchestra, or tropical island, without intentionally doing so they fall hopelessly in love. While we all know Will is in his wheelchair, the camera does many close up angles, as a symbol that even if it is for a second, Will is not focused on his horrible accident, but on Lou. This powerful angle allows the audience to see the two as an “ordinary couple,” something Will never thought he would be able to grasp again. After watching these various scenes I really believed there was hope for Will Traynor after all. Both Sam Chalfin and Emilia Clarke are perfect characters for the roles in this film. Sam sells the witty personality of Will and Emilia does an excellent job of being the optimistic Louisa Clark. When the two interact, especially towards the end of the film, (after they have both confessed their love for each other) the love story becomes extremely real. I began to feel such strong emotions that made it seem as if this situation was happening in my own life. We are able to feel as if we are on the magnificent journey of finding true meaning in Will’s new life.
As mentioned early, this film strays from the typical romance formula. You know what I mean….boy meets girl, the two start talking and before we know it they are married and live happily ever after. Although the film does have a few heartwarming moment, the ending is far from “happily ever after.” Unfortunately, even after Lou and Will fall in love, he still decides to go through with his assisted suicide. This was a major plot twist that I, along with many others, did not predict. Even though I still agree with Will’s decision, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t rooting for Lou and Will to have their ever so happy ending. Although tragic, this ending is what sets this story apart from others of its kind. I will forever remember this film as “the love story without the happy ending.”
Above all else, this story helps us to realize what I believe to be, the true meaning of life. This film helps us to realize that it is not the time we have on this earth that matters, but how we make our time on this earth count. Knowing that Lou only had a few months with Will did not stop her from spending each day trying to make him feel alive again. And for Will, he finally was able to open up and tell Lou how he really felt about her before it was all too late. We were made to make life better for those around us and to love unconditionally. I believe that if everyone approached life as a Lousia Clark (Lou), the world would be a much better place.
I have nothing but praise for Thea Sharrock’s film and highly recommend watching, but make sure to have a box of tissues near by.