Me Before You is far from a perfect movie. It’s cliché, sappy, and mostly predictable. This adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ romance novel does have one magical thing going for it, however: Emilia Clarke. Sometimes the success of a film all boils down to a solitary performance. The 29-year-old actress is so lovable, charismatic, and flat out enchanting here that she makes an otherwise uneven film hard to resist.
Clarke plays Lou Clark, a young English woman who either has the best fashion sense in the world or the worst. Either way, Lou’s rainbow-colored wardrobe perfectly sums up her character: bright, comforting, quirky, multi-layered, and maybe a little naïve. Looking for work, Lou finds a job caring for a paralyzed man named Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). Handsome, rich, and adventurous, Will lived his life to the fullest before his accident. Now unable to move his arms or legs, he’s seemingly lost the will to live. Will naturally shuns Lou’s wide-eyed optimism, but soon warms up to her charms. Just as Will falls in love with Lou, so do we.
So the plot really isn’t anything new. As a matter of fact, it’s essentially the more conventional version of The Theory of Everything. With another actress in the leading role, Me Before You would be somewhat straightforward and Lou might even come off as one-note. Clarke simply sparks up every scene she’s in, though. Almost immediately winning the audience over, she makes you want to just eat Lou up. At the same time, Lou isn’t a constant ray of sunshine with no depth or problems. Clarke helps develop her into a strong, determined, complex heroine that we truly admire. Even when the film works up to a pretty forced final act, we feel every emotion Clarke gets across.
While Clarke is the reason to see Thea Sharrock’s film, she’s not the only good thing in it. She shares a genuine chemistry with Sam Claflin, who brings a certain likability to a cynical character. We also get strong supporting work from Charles Dance and Janet McTeer as Will’s parents, who fear that their son may succumb to his suicidal thoughts. Matthew Lewis also does what he can as Lou’s oblivious boyfriend, who’s ironically a runner. The scenery is additionally breathtaking and of course Jill Taylor’s wonderful costume design deserves serious Oscar consideration. Clarke is undeniably the MVP, however, and she ultimately saves Me Before You from its shortcomings.
Ever since she broke out as Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, we all knew that Clarke was destined for great things on both the small screen and big screen. Some thought Clarke’s turn as Sarah Connor in Terminator Genisys might be her breakthrough film role, but even she basically admitted that probably wasn’t the best career move. In Me Before You, Clarke proves that she’s a star in every conceivable way. Her performance is a clear indication that Clarke will continue to dominate the silver screen… and hopefully the Iron Throne someday as well.