Me Before You (2016): A Movie Review


Me Before You is the movie adaptation of the titular best-selling book by Jojo Moyes, released in 2012. Set in parochial England, it centres on the bond between a quadriplegic man and his caregiver. Warning: this review contains some serious spoilers.

On the surface, this movie is a poignant romance set in the picturesque English countryside. It is slightly reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, with a grouchy, distressed male character living in a castle and a contrasting positive, easy-going female character. Beneath it all, however, it delves into themes of ableism and assisted suicide.

The Inter-Abled Dynamics of Me Before You

In the opening scene, we meet Will Traynor and learn how he ended up paralyzed from the neck down. Will, played by Sam Claflin from The Hunger Games, attempts to take his motorcycle to work in the pouring rain. However, at his girlfriend’s protests, he relents, choosing to walk instead. Paradoxically, he gets hit by a bike and ends up with quadriplegia.

Courtesy: WarnerBros

Following this, we are introduced to our second main character, Louisa Clarke, an agreeable young girl with a quirky wardrobe and easy smile. Louisa (Emilia Clark from The Game of Thrones) is a determined, if underachieving, young woman with a strange fascination with bumblebee tights. She is freshly unemployed and searching for a new job when the job centre finds an offer seemingly perfect for her: “Care and companionship of a disabled man. Six-month, fixed term contract.” She gets the job and meets Will for the first time. 

Courtesy: WarnerBros

Initially, Will either ignores her or insults her at every opportunity. But their dynamic shifts when Louisa decides she has had enough and confronts him about his behaviour. They become friends, going on walks and watching old French movies together. At this point, you can certainly feel the chemistry growing between them. That is until she overhears a conversation between Will’s parents where they discuss his upcoming trip to Switzerland. Will had given his parents six months, after which he would undergo an assisted suicide in Switzerland. As expected, Louisa is devastated. 

She goes home, relays everything to her sister, Treena, and talks about wanting to quit. Treena talks her down and encourages her to try to use the time left to go on adventures and give Will wonderful memories. Louisa, as optimistic as ever, hears her sister’s idea and thinks, “Well, what if those adventures can get him to change his mind?”

Spoiler: They don’t. Louisa tries her best, taking him to horse-racing events and concerts. They even attend the wedding of his ex-girlfriend and ex-best friend and manage to have fun. They travel out of the country and their love blossoms. Kissing in picturesque cabins and on the beach at night, it seems like all anyone could ask for. Yet, in the end, Will confesses that nothing will ever change his mind. He says “When we get back, I’m going to Switzerland. So, I’m asking you if you feel the things you say you feel, come with me.” 

At first, she refuses. But eventually, her family convinces her it is the right thing to do, so she calls and goes to him. But the story does not end there. From beyond the grave, Will sends Lou to Paris and gives her a trust fund, which he tells her “is not enough for you to sit around for the rest of your life” but will give her a new beginning. He tells her all these in a letter he sends posthumously.

Courtesy: WarnerBros

Final Thoughts

What constitutes a life worth living?

This thought kept playing through my mind as I watched Me Before You. The movie makes it a point to show us that Will is in a lot of pain. Still, his character is lacking in depth. Sure, we learn that he used to be a very active adrenaline junkie. We also get to see his current hobbies which include watching DVDs and staring longingly at the pouring rain. But we do not get to meet him as a person. 

When Will says “I can’t be the kind of man who just accepts this” it makes me wonder what he thinks about the people who “just accept” their disability and why he believes he cannot be like them. I get that I have never been in his position and that it must be quite difficult to go from being an active adrenaline junkie to living a life where you can’t even get out of bed on your own. That seems like it could certainly break a person. 

Yet, when I turn his thought process over in my head, it reminds me of the ableist rhetoric that only an able-bodied life is worth living.  While I concur that it is ultimately his decision to make, and I even enjoy how Me Before You highlights the fact that love cannot heal all things, the message still rubs me the wrong way.

It also irked me that he told Louisa if she loved him, she would go with him to Switzerland. I believe it should be okay to refuse to go watch someone you love kill himself.

But what do you think about all this? Tell us in the comments!


1 reply on “Me Before You (2016): A Movie Review”

  • I think you should elaborate more on why people should accept how they are, probably supporting it with Medical ways or the things they could do. From the movie,Will didn’t see a way out of his situation which made the suicidal thought seems more of the best solution. I think at a point sir the movie he moved a particular part of his body if I’m not mistaken, it’s been long I watched the movie🌝

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