Me Before You

I liked this film. I hadn’t read the book by JoJo Moyes beforehand, but it was pretty obvious how the storyline would go. Here’s the gist: Lou lives in a small town and finds herself out of work and needing to help support her family financially. She finds a job as a carer to Will, who needs round the clock care following a motorbike accident. Will feels he’s lost everything, including his desire to continue living, and feels he’s a burden. Despite both characters being stubborn in their ways, (Lou as an eternal optimist, Will the opposite), they form a close relationship. It’s not enough to change Will’s mind, but the end outcome is still ultimately love.

Will comments at one point that you can literally see Lou’s emotions on her face as they cross her mind, and you really could. It was never going to be a happy storyline, but, actually, there was a lot of humour in it and I think the theme of assisted suicide was well handled. I really liked seeing Matthew Lewis (who played Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter) in a different context, even if he was playing a self-absorbed character. I also loved Lou’s shoe collection!

Here’s where I was a bit surprised. I usually over empathise with films, in that I really hate films where people die or are ‘sacrificed’ for the greater good of others (pretty much all sci-fi ones). It’s not the violence or death itself, it’s the fact that I feel what the person dying/being killed must feel like right before they die. So I tend to shut my eyes so I can’t see their facial expressions. I didn’t feel that way about this film. I didn’t feel upset and I didn’t cry. I actually came away feeling positive, which was really bizarre, and I’ve been trying to work out why.

Firstly, Will made a decision to end his life because he found it difficult to bear. He wasn’t saying he didn’t appreciate everything that was being done for him, but that he missed his old life, didn’t want to be remembered as being disabled and didn’t want to feel a burden. This is the bit I did feel angry at- it’s still Lou’s decision as to whether she wants to be involved with Will. He shouldn’t have made the choice for her. But that was only a fraction of his reasoning, and, in a twisted way, he still did it out of love.

Secondly, Lou fought against the decision but still was ultimately there to support him at the end. She had fond memories of their time together. So, again, an act of love.

Thirdly, in a way, Will got back the control over the decisions in his life. He’d been dealt a terrible hand in so many ways, and had all the elements of choice taken away from him. He was getting more ill and didn’t want to fade away into nothing. So, he made, for him, a positive choice as to how he ended his life. This might not work for everyone, but it worked for him.

There’s been a bit of backlash on social media because some people say that the film suggests that people who are in Will’s situation should opt for assisted suicide so as ‘not to burden their families’, and there’s concern that it may influence those who are vulnerable. I didn’t really get that impression- Will didn’t want to be a burden, but that was only part of the decision. He didn’t feel he was ‘living’ was his main reason. The other point raised is that the film is somehow suggesting that disabled people can’t live fulfilling lives. Again, I didn’t get that impression- I saw it more as this was one person making a decision for himself.

I think I didn’t feel upset about it because Will himself was at peace with it. He’d clearly thought it out. It was almost a relief for him, but he’d had a great 6 months prior with Lou. I’m still not sure why I came away feeling positive about it. Maybe because it proves to us that even when you think you’ve lost everything, you can still make some of your own choices and are ultimately still in control of something in life. Everybody left the cinema feeling reflective- the film definitely gives everyone something to think about, whichever way you view it.

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