“Me Before You”
Though I feared I was going to see a knockoff version of a lamentable Nicholas Sparks film, I sat in my seat unashamedly emotionally dissipated as it came to an end.
Here, Sam Claflin plays William Traynor, a young London businessman from a wealthy family who enjoys frantic athletic adventures with friends as well as the company of a woman close to his heart. However, it all comes to an end when he is suddenly struck by a motorcycle while walking in the rain to catch a cab. Paralyzed from the neck down, it is apparent that life has lost any meaning to William.
With a caustic demeanor causing every caretaker to flee, his mother hires Louisa Clark, a small-town girl seeking any job to help her family. Played in unforgettable fashion by Emilia Clarke, she combines a memorable set of clothes with a heart of gold that prods the helpless William to slowly emerge from his self-imposed shell.
The relationship between these two is a work of cinematic art that will repeatedly bring tears to your eyes. There is nothing artificial or corny in the way they gradually warm to each other, and this is one of the greatest romantic films to hit the big screen in a long time.
Some powerful performances by supporting actors add to the film’s depth. Charles Dance and Janet McTeer are pitch-perfect as the parents of a paralyzed son. They try to keep their hearts from breaking while attempting to give him some hope, and you will never forget their torment when confronted with William’s difficult personal decision.
You also get to see Louisa spend time with her parents, Bernard and Josie Clark (Brendan Coyle and Samantha Spiro), sister Katrina (Jenna Coleman) and boyfriend Patrick (Matthew Lewis). Living in a home where her father is unemployed and her boyfriend grows increasingly jealous, Louisa displays an emotional strength that leaves most of the audience feeling that the film is wrapping its arms around you.
I adore films that center on love, anguish and loss. There have been other great films touching on those subjects, ranging from “On the Beach” (1959), “They Were Expendable” (1945), “Goodbye Mr. Chips” (1939), “Casablanca” (1942), “Ghost” (1990), “Last of the Mohicans” (1992) and “Into the West” (1992). “Me Before You” joins their esteemed company.
Let me close by saying that the injury to William left me a bit overwhelmed. Four years ago, I suffered the same injury after being struck by a motorcycle in the rain, and I was hospitalized for close to three weeks. Despite initially dancing on the edge of death, I was able to recover. (At least that is my claim!)
I can only imagine what I would have done had I been completely paralyzed. Had daily pain been inescapable and I was left where others had to care for every bodily function, I still wonder if some type of assisted suicide would not have been a blessing for me and those I loved.
With a fantastic musical score surrounding every scene, I can’t remember being so emotionally overpowered by such wondrous performances as given by Clarke and Claflin. Yes, you’re going to bawl your eyes out, but this film will etch memories in your heart that you will treasure for a long time.
“Love & Friendship”
Director Whit Stillman’s “Love & Friendship” is one of the hidden gems to be released this year. Based on a short story by Jane Austen, it brings old England to life in a most irreverent fashion.
The movie focuses on a moment in the life of Lady Susan Vernon, marvelously played by Kate Beckinsale. A beautiful woman with a bad reputation, she is set on finding a wealthy husband for her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) and herself. She uses her sexuality in the same way John Wayne would use a six-shooter in an old American western.
Lady Susan is a woman who has mastered the art of seduction. Publicly dismissing her accusers with a flip of the wrist, she privately functions as a modern day heroin dealer who capitalizes on everyone else’s weaknesses.
Beckinsale shines in her role, and you are left applauding her triumph. She really has been given little to do on the big screen over the years, and I can only remember her stirring, provocative performance in the original “Underworld” (2003).
Additionally, Beckinsale is surrounded by a group of marvelous performances. Chloë Sevigny is pitch-perfect as Lady Susan’s American friend Alice Johnson. In a golden moment, Lady Susan comforts Alice by saying this about her arrogant husband (Stephen Fry), “Too old to be governable, and too young to die.”
Xavier Samuel plays Reginald DeCourcy, the handsome young heir to a fabulous fortune who quickly becomes fascinated by Susan. Little does he know of her intentions of finding a way to have her daughter fall into his arms.
While all the supporting actors are good, Tom Bennett stands out as the vapid yet very funny Sir James Martin, a British goofball who intends on marrying Frederica. His flamboyant stupidity will leave you repeatedly laughing in your seat.
There have been a number of interesting takes on Austen’s novels, the latest being this year’s surprisingly clever “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” The pleasure flowing from “Love & Friendship” centers on Lady Susan’s ability to use her venom to slice and dice the stuffy, aristocratic world surrounding her.
I urge you to see this film, as you are likely to relish every moment.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.