Based on the best selling novel, Me Before You tells the story of Louisa Clarke, a recently unemployed, self proclaimed ‘fashionista’ whose family relies on her having an income. After taking on a job of a companion to the wealthy Will Traynor, who is paralyzed from the waist down, Clarke finds her priorities change.
At first glance, the film is what it is marketed to be; a romantic flick meant to be enjoyed on a girls night out or with a significant other; a box of tissues on one side and a tub of ice cream on the other. Yes, it is a tear jerker. And although Emilia Clarke’s bright smile and over active eyebrows will keep you preoccupied for most of the film, what lies underneath is a problem most audiences will be unaware of. Let me break it down for you:
It’s no doubt that Me Before You is a film about disability and assisted suicide. This is troubling enough but is made worse by the fact that it uses a non-disabled actor (Sam Claflin) in the role of a quadriplegic. Claflin’s studly posture, even if on a wheelchair, and swoon-worthy smile may make him an obvious choice for the part, however, many are criticizing the decision. Thus, similar to the #OscarsSoWhite movement, a non-disabled actor playing the role of a quadriplegic is causing a stir on social media.
Here’s the thing: there is a big difference between actual human people having feelings about their actual lives and experiences of disability and a fictionalized account written by someone who isn’t disabled. The problem is the film heavily romanticizes very problematic stereotypes about disability. It’s important to criticize and be aware of the fact that the non-disabled media heavily over-represents disability discourses that fit into ableist stereotypes, which makes it harder for the viewer to differentiate between the feelings of individuals and the experiences and feelings of all disabled people.
And while some may argue that the purpose of the movie was to give fans a treat by bringing the best selling novel to life, the depth and meaning was evidently lost in the making. The conversation on paralysis was overshadowed by more marketable things such as unconventional relationships, bucket lists, and awkward love triangles. It’s still a pleasure to watch, no doubt, but expect no more than some eye candy and lines you wish your significant other would say to you, but never will.
Did you watch Me Before You? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!