Friday, June 3, 2016

Me Before You [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (O)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. Wloszczyna) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review  

Readers here should know that Me Before You [2016] (directed by Thea Sharrock, screenplay by Jojo Moyes [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] based on her novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn]) is in the first place _about_ Assisted Suicide / Euthanasia.  (As such, though nominally rated PG-13 it probably should be R...  It's not a "light story").

In the opening minutes of the film, we are introduced to Will Traynor (played by Sam Claflin) a dashing (and super-rich) young man, a stock broker / investment banker of some sort (with a family that _literally_ "owns the castle" in the middle of their town somewhere in provincial England) and ... we watch him about to get hit by a motor scooter in a rain storm as he's crossing the street in front of his London place of business.  We hear the screech, we hear the bang ...

... The next sequence set some two years later, introduces us to Luisa ("Lou") Clark (played by Amelia Clarke) a cheerful / bubbly early-20-something y.o. woman about to lose her job (through no fault of her own, the business was simply closing) at a bakery/pastry shop in the "tourist section" of the lovely/picturesque provincial town from which Will had hailed (and, again, whose castle in the center of town Will's family literally owned).

It would seem therefore that Will's family had been "rich" for generations, since at least the middle ages and arguably since the beginning of recorded history ... In contrast, Lou, we find out as she's walking home (after having lost her job of 6 years...) lives with her parents (played by Samantha Spiro and Brendan Coyle), her sister Katrina ("Treena") (played by Jenna Coleman) and grandad (played by Alan Breck) in a blue collar "row house" section of town more toward its edge.  (One family seemed to have had it made, for generations, while the other had struggled, seemingly for ever ...).

With few jobs available and not a heck of a lot of skills, the jobs counselor at the local (gov't run?) employment agency suggests she take a stab at a "care taker" opening advertised it turns out by Will's parents (played by Janet McTeer and Charles Dance) to help take care of ... Will (who's become a paraplegic - confined to a bed / motorized wheelchair, unable to walk, indeed unable to use even his hands since his accident).

She interviews and despite being intimidated at first by Will's mom who did the interviewing (and let's face it, not a lot of experience in the matter of care taking) she gets the job.  Why?  Well, the "heavy lifting" (literally) was being done by an amiable physical therapist named Nathan (played by Stephen Peacocke).  Lou's job was to basically make sure that Will took his various meds and, well, to lift his spirits / give him someone to talk to.  Here Lou's cheerful disposition was in fact a useful indeed necessary qualification for the job (and cheerfulness / optimism has never been determined by one's socioeconomic class ...).

Much often predictable ensues...

Obviously, Will is quite depressed even if he had learned to fake a smile in his parents' presence as necessary.  He's also angry, angry among other things _at God_.

Will's anger at God / Religion  is made clear by a really quite awful (and seemingly off-hand)  comment about a recent French film Of Men and Gods (orig. Des Hommes et des Dieux) [2010] which in my review, I had called possibly _the best_ film about contemporary Catholic Religious Life _ever made_ (and I'm _not_ alone in that characterization, priests / religious across the U.S. have _loved_ the film and have used even it in vocation promotion ;-), which Will instead dismissively introduced to Lou as "French gay porn." There is NO SEX or even HINT OF SEX in that film ... Instead the film is about a community of French Benedictine monks in Algeria that despite increasing risk to their lives, decided to continue in their 100 year old mission there of both _praying for_ and _serving_ the people (mostly Muslim) of their town up onto _their martyrdom_.

Indeed, in that simple offhand / dismissive comment about "Of Men and Gods" is in fact "the true Crux" of the current one:  In that film, a community of Benedictine monks had rededicated themselves TO GOD / EACH OTHER and TO THE SERVICE OF OTHERS ... ONTO DEATH.  Yet in the current story, we had an angry rich young man (certainly angry with _some_ reason) who was REPEATEDLY CHOOSING to put HIMSELF ("Me") BEFORE OTHERS (his parents and ultimately in front of Lou, "You") in deciding to do with the future of his life.

IT IS FOR THIS REASON THAT I'VE CHOSEN ABOVE TO CHARACTERIZE THE FILM AS _ABOUT_ Assisted Suicide / Euthanasia (that's what Will, despite the love of his parents and later of Lou ... pursues) and NOT "A CASE _FOR_ ASSISTED SUICIDE / EUTHANASIA."

The film is sympathetic to Will's plight.  As a quadriplegic, he found himself unable to do MUCH of what he had LOVED TO DO prior to his accident (and there was _little prospect_ that this was going to change in his lifetime).  He was one who LOVED "doing things" ALL KINDS OF THINGS before his accident.  Now he could not _do_ most of them.

Yet the film is at least as sympathetic and arguably pleads the case of those around Will.  His parents and especially his mother LOVED HIM.  Lou also came to LOVE HIM and would have done basically anything (even SACRIFICE HER OWN DESIRES / FUTURE) to HELP MAKE HIM HAPPY.

But the film is about "Me" and "You" and who do WE _choose_ to put first.  And WILL (!) seemed dead set on focusing _on himself_ ... 

So this is a very intelligent story that does remind us that though we are always (and perhaps always have the right to be) "the Masters of our Lives" WE _ARE_ ALSO ALWAYS _MORE_ THAN WHAT WE "DO" (and that the Others around us ... Count as well).

Good / excellent job!

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