Set in the surroundings of a typically Welsh village and a centuries-old castle, this romantic drama-comedy raises many new questions about love and disability…
Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) used to be a high-flying London banker. But when he is hit by a motorcycle one day, he becomes completely paralyzed. Will's parents, the owners of a castle and large country estate, have all the money in the world and convert the annexe of their grand estate for his special needs. But feeling trapped in his own body, Will still feels incredibly depressed and also becomes very cynical…
Meanwhile, in the same small village of Pembroke in Wales, 26-year-old working class girl Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) must find a new job after being laid off from a café. She takes up a position as the new caregiver for Will Traynor, but is instantly rejected by the cynical former banker. Over time, however, depressed Will and bubbly Louisa become friends and even develop romantic feelings for each other – despite Louisa still being in a relationship with marathon-running boyfriend Patrick.
Things seem to improve until the day that Louisa finds out about a shocking secret: As Will cannot deal with the pain and suffering of his disability, he has given his parents six months before they must bring him to Switzerland for euthanasia.
Determined to change his mind, Louisa organizes a range of trips and fun activities. Will she succeed in making Will enjoy life once more and abandon his sinister euthanasia plans?
Much of the film is set in the idyllic Welsh village of Pembroke, which is surrounded by its prominent castle.
In the film, Pembroke Castle provided the exteriors for the Trainer’s massive estate. For the family’s home inside the castle walls, however, a home in Oxfordshire called Wytham Abbey was used.
This article in Architectural Digest tells you more about the British locations used to shoot Me Before You.
A fun fact for the history nerds: Pembroke Castle was founded as a Norman Castle in 1093 and was the birthplace of Henry Tudor, who later became Henry VII. His mother (at the time of Henry's birth only 13 years old!) was the famous "Red Queen" Margaret Beaufort, whose story is told in one of my favourite historical TV series ever – The White Queen.
Back to Me Before You: In an attempt to change Will's mind about the euthanasia, Louisa also organizes a trip to Mauritius. However, the crew did not make the long trip to the island in the Indian Ocean, but instead went to a much closer located island: Spanish holiday favourite Majorca in the Mediterranean!
She may be one of the famous Games of Thrones stars, but Emilia Clarke did not convince me in this film. Most of the time, I found her acting really over the top and unnatural. This kind of made the film lose a few points. Sam Claflin's acting, on the other hand, was absolutely spot-on, especially when you consider that he had the not-so-easy task of playing a completely paralyzed man.
Regarding the film's theme, You Before Me reminded me a lot of the French movie The Intouchables (2011), which tells a very similar story of an aristocratic man in a wheelchair and his working class caregiver. At the beginning, the two men don't like each other at all, too, but over time they become very close and even "friends for life".
See for yourself if You Before Me ends the same way… Without revealing too much, I may state that I liked the fact that the film really made me think about such controversial topics as euthanasia. If a person really can't deal with the fact that they are trapped in their own body, should you allow (and even help) them to put an end to it?
On the positive though: This film also reminded me of the happy endings in real life! When former German athlete and stuntman Samuel Koch attempted to win a bet in the popular live TV show Wetten, dass …? in 2010, his accident with so-called jumping stilts left him paralyzed from the neck down. However, Koch tried to stay positive. He finished his actor's training and landed a job in a German soap opera. This was also where he met his girlfriend Sarah. The two wed in the summer of 2016. A happy ending after all!
My final verdict: Not always the best acting, but a film that really makes you think about life and love in a completely new light!
*** 3 out of 5 stars!
Who else has seen this Wales-set romantic drama-comedy? What did you make of it all?