By Sammy Park
British actors Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin star in summer’s biggest romantic movie, Me Before You. While the plot and characters are cliches for the romance genre, the film’s comedic moments come naturally and feature excellent acting. However, the movie’s major pitfall is its harmful portrayal of people with disabilities.
The movie follows Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a once successful businessman whose life was drastically changed when he was paralyzed from the neck down. His wealthy parents hire bubbly caregiver, Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke). The unlikely pair eventually fall in love and Louisa attempts to make a pessimistic Will see the positive side of life, even in a wheelchair.
While the movie’s plot may be gripping, the offensive portrayal of quadriplegic love interest, Will, lowers the quality of Me Before You. Throughout the movie, Will is just a catalyst for able bodied Louisa’s character development. The theme of an able bodied ‘savior’ helping the disabled drives the movie.
Me Before You dedicates a large amount of screen time and focus to Louisa. While this may be valid since she is a main character, it shifts the focus to an able bodied person’s perception of disability rather than an actual disabled viewpoint. The movie fails to reveal Will’s motives for being closed off and cold towards Louisa and solely relies on secondhand character accounts. The chance to have a new, diverse take on a love story is wasted.
The movie itself is mediocre, but the acting by both Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin conveys the emotion needed to deliver lines like, “You are the only reason I get up in the morning.” While the script is at times corny, Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin make dialogue seem natural.
The cliche plotline and a film score with too many of 2016’s top 100 songs mark Me Before You as a formulaic tearjerker movie. Despite its potential to be a new and refreshing addition to the romance genre, it instead plays it safe and, in turn, produces a film that reinforces dangerous preconceptions facing the disabled community.