REVIEW: Me Before You (12A) ***
Adapted from the bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes, Me Before You is a tear-stained romance about two lost souls, who find each other when they least expect it.
The trajectory of this improbable love affair will be achingly familiar to anyone who has sobbed through The Fault In Our Eyes, Paper Towns and The Choice, and director Thea Sharrock clearly telegraphs each shameless tug of the heartstring.
Moyes’ screenplay adaptation omits some of the meatier content from her novel, like the heart-breaking reason her heroine is reluctant to leave home and explore the world.
However, the crass depiction of class, which initially divides the characters, is still intact.
Thus, the rich are carefree, fabulously attired and enjoy classical music and opera, while the working class are happily enslaved to denim and wouldn’t know Brahms from Bartok.
William Traynor (Sam Claflin) is a handsome high-flyer in London, who harks from privileged stock.
His parents, Steven (Charles Dance) and Camilla (Janet McTeer), own a country pile including a crumbling castle and he jets off on expensive extreme sports holidays with his pretty girlfriend, Alicia (Vanessa Kirby).
Fate deals William a cruel blow and he is left paralysed.
He returns to his ancestral home and relinquishes his lust for life.
In order to raise his spirits, the Traynors advertise for a companion for their son and misfit Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke), who has just lost her job as a waitress at The Buttered Bun Cafe, answers the call.
She lives in the nearby village with her unemployed father Bernard (Brendan Coyle), mother Josie (Samantha Spiro), sister Katrina (Jenna Coleman) and the rest of her extended family
While hunky male nurse Nathan (Stephen Peacocke) tends to Will’s physical needs, Louisa attempts to buoy his spirits with a series of excursions to the races and a classical music concert.
An unlikely friendship threatens to blossom into romance, but Louisa already has a fitness-obsessed boyfriend, Patrick (Matthew Lewis).
‘You only get one life, Clark, and it’s your responsibility to live it to the fullest,’ Will counsels Louisa, encouraging her to expand her horizons beyond the village and, indeed, Patrick.
Me Before You glides serenely along its linear narrative.
Fans of the book should snuffle through a couple of tissues as relationships unravel and good-looking cast members cry perfect tears in close-up.
The morally complex issue of assisted suicide is broached in the most inoffensive and simplistic terms, offering one brief voice of dissent – ‘It’s no better than murder!’ – who is noticeably absent for the rest of the film.
Despite the manifold failings of the script, luminous lead actors Clarke and Claflin kindle palpable sparks of on-screen chemistry that compel us to root for them, even when common sense tells us the relationship is destined to end in heartbreak.