Me Before You

Now, this must have been a good book. My friend Jojo Moyes wrote it and she’s very smart and it was a huge hit and everyone who’s read it tells me it was great, in its own tear-jerking way.

I’m all for popular books capturing a mood and Jojo writes with acuity and accessibility, from what I’ve read of her books, although I haven’t tried Me Before You**, I confess.

But why did they have to make it such a vanilla movie? It didn’t need to have been this bad, really. It could have been a bit more intelligent, to be honest, but you can feel the fear that it should be a bit of a blockbuster and there’s the dread odour of mid-market compromise wafting through every scene.

First, Emilia Clarke isn’t adorable in the lead. She wiggles her eyebrows, she bares her teeth like a talking horse and she stammers a lot, like a female Hugh Grant impersonator. Her family are all poorly drawn characters around her, particularly Jenna Coleman as her sister.

Then Sam Claflin, as the quadriplegic hero Will, who’s just a bit of an arsehole, really. I didn’t like him. Able-bodied he was a privileged, golden boor of a City boy; in a wheelchair, he’s such a self-absorbed snob, it’s actually hard to pity him.

Plus, he insists on calling the girl “Clark” all the time, like she was his butler or his pupil. Which makes all the cultural education – watch this subtitled film (Des Hommes et Des Dieux, would you believe, a film about stoic monks under seige), listen to Mozart – rather yucky and her falling in love with him (he owns the local castle and is filthy rich and his parents are Charles Dance and Janet McTeer)) all a bit dubious in the modern sexual politics minefield.

Or maybe it doesn’t. What do I know? Obviously millions of women around the world have loved this fairy tale, Pretty Woman-ish, take on love and death.

I wouldn’t have minded if the film had made me laugh or cry. But it didn’t because it sinks into blandness, lighter than a Richard Curtis doodle. The Radio 2 afternoon-friendly soundtrack alone should tell you where it goes wrong – seriously, every track chosen underlines its scene as if with double thick marker pen, so when they kiss under a thousand stars, it’s actually while Ed Sheeran is singing: “kiss me under the light of a thousand stars”.

The film, directed by Thea Shamrock and using Jojo’s own screenplay, does try to paint Louisa Clark as a kooky individual, with her montage of odd fashion outfits every time she comes to push the wheelchair about a bit,  but it actually makes her annoying and unlikeable, so you don’t admire her for leaving her fitness-obsessed boyfriend Patrick. I’m sure all her decisions are a lot more complex in the novel, but the screenplay does her few favours.

And it’s not particularly inspiring to see she that what she finally learns from  is some of the arrogant selfishness she really needs to get on and follow her own path.

That might have worked in the book, but it all looks a bit naff and dull on the screen.

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