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Over the course of these first thirty episodes of Beyond The Box Set, we’ve deliberately covered a wide variety of movies – from sci-fi and action to 80s cult comedies and the bewilderingly popular sub-genre that is Adam Sandler vehicles. But for whatever reason, it took us until now to delve into the ever-popular realm of the ‘chick flick’, a possibly derogatory catch-all for romantic movies marketed primarily towards women.
One of the more successful, and controversial, examples of the genre from the past few years, Me Before You stars Emilia Clarke as Louisa…erm… Clark, a warm-hearted klutz – think Bridget Jones minus the swearing and obsessive calorie counting – who takes a job as a non-medical companion to a quadriplegic millionaire, played by Sam Claflin.
In many ways the movie follows a fairly conventional structure. First they’re antagonistic towards each other, then they soften and fall in love, but circumstances – his disability and her inconvenient boyfriend-of-seven-years – conspire to drive a wedge between their budding romance. However, the third act of the movie – based on a successful novel by author Jojo Moyes – takes a surprising swing into the thorny issue of assisted suicide, as Claflin’s Will Traynor determines to end his life with the help of Swiss organisation Dignitas.
If you think fluffy romance and the right-to-die debate would make for strange bedfellows, you’d be right. Me Before You paints a heavily sanitised portrait of disability from the get-go, with a professional nurse dealing with Will’s ‘essential needs’ almost entirely offscreen, leaving Clark with the much more palatable job of weathering his frequent put-downs and accompanying him on trips paid for by his millionaire parents. His decision to end his own life feels equally soft-focus, an under-explored reason to turn the movie into a three-hankie weepie at the end.
Many members of various disability rights criticised the film when it was released for presenting the characters ultimate decision to go through with his decision to end his life as a noble sacrifice to avoid burdening his able-bodied love interest. The film certainly sends some strange messages in this regard, but just as bizarre to us on viewing this film was how unsympathetic a character Will Traynor is in general. The curmudgeonly love interest who hides a heart of gold is a trope that stretches back to Jane Austen, but a couple of sweet gestures aren’t enough to overcome the impression that for most of the movie he behaves like a privileged, emotionally abusive monster.
Frankly we were a little bewildered by this movie, in terms of who it was supposed to appeal to and what it was trying to say. However, clearly it struck a chord with some demographic – the film made over $200 million at the Global Box Office despite mixed reviews and the protests surrounding the subject matter. So if Warner Bros. ever decide to commission a sequel and for some reason JoJo Moyes isn’t willing to play ball, we’re more than happy to submit our own potential follow-ups for consideration…
Harry’s Pitch | Me After You
John’s Pitch | Hell on Wheels / Me Before Ewe
You can listen to our full Me Before You episode – including our reflections on the original movie, our sequel pitches and our favourite listener submissions – by downloading or streaming from iTunes, Stitcher, aCast and most other major podcast providers. We release a new episode every Friday morning, so hit subscribe if you enjoy the show and want to hear more of our ridiculous movie pitches.
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