The movie “Me before You” has recently got the attention and critics of Disability Activists worldwide. The reason behind their reaction is that the movie tackled a very sensitive issue: It attempted to show that the life of a quadriplegic person is not worth living.
“Me before You” is an adaptation from the bestselling novel by Jo Jo Moyes and directed by Thea Sharrock. It tells the love story of a young woman named Lou – Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) who takes the job as a cheering companion of a wealthy quadriplegic Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). Will became quadriplegic because a motorcycle hit him while he was crossing the street. He had a heroic life before the accident. Will has been two years confined to an automatic motorized wheelchair and is very desperate about his situation, now. The mother of Will recruited Lou to take care of the mindset of her son and to cheer him up, hoping that he will get over his accident and continue his life with quadriplegia. But this is a big challenge for Lou, because Will is the type of sarcastic very depressed person who wants to die. In fact, Will has already made the necessary legal procedures to kill himself through a company based in Switzerland and which provides suicide to people who want to end their lives. The slogan of the company is ‘Live in dignity, die in dignity’. I will not mention the name of the company, which really exists in Switzerland and whose name is clearly emphasized in the movie.
In this article, I want to take a different critical perspective towards the movie, where I will not discuss the idea of suicide: If it is correct or wrong. Legal suicide is an option in Switzerland and any person (especially, if he/she is suffering) is free to live or to die. Here, I want to say that the movie is trivial, in the sense that it takes you in a disappointing and failing journey of a love couple (Lou and Will). Also, I want to show you that “Me before You” is a materialistic movie intended to materialistic people.
First, what is the benefit from watching this movie? Why will you make me watch a movie, which plays on my emotions, where the end of the story is the same as the beginning? From the beginning of the movie we knew that Will wants to kill himself, so you are only showing me the failing attempt of Lou to rescue Will! No problem with that, we have a similar plot in “The English Patient” movie but the difference between both is that in the end of the English Patient a New Love is born… However, in the end of “Me before You”, death and materialism prevail, as we will see next.
Usually, in a movie, when a person dies, a bird flying in the sky or a leaf flowing with the wind symbolizes the death of the person and that his spirit is gone. But, in the ending scene of “Me before You”, when Will dies, we see a leaf falling down from a tree and touching dried leafs on the ground – which symbolizes earth; as if his soul didn’t leave the materialistic world and stayed stuck in it. In fact, this is true, because we saw in the movie that Will is always attached to his heroic past, he is not accepting his new life. Furthermore, another point, which shows materialism, is the following: Will leaves a letter dedicated to Lou to read it after he dies. So, in the end of the movie, we see Lou reading the letter while eating a croissant in a café in Paris, as he told her to do. In the letter, Will says: “I left you one million dollars in a bank account so you achieve your dreams”. This shows how much Will is a materialistic person; he thought that if he gives her money then she would reach her dreams! But, Lou’s dream was to save their LOVE relationship and has nothing to do with money. For instance, in a scene when Lou and Will return from a travel trip and Will’s parents are welcoming them in the airport, we see Lou saying to Will’s mother: “Don’t pay me; I don’t want money”.
Will has everything that a man can dream of, he literally owns a castle, he has a personal air jet… But he is unable to live without sensing the physical world. He used to surf, to bike and ski before his accident. He is unable to get over all of this; furthermore, he is unable to accept the fact that he cannot touch Lou with his hand due to his quadriplegia.
Finally, Will could have considered another path. If he is truly a successful person and a hero as he is plotted in his previous life before the accident, then he could have created organizations to help others. For instance, he could have used his money to support cure and Spinal Cord Injury research. He could have written a book to teach his heroism to the youth generation and he could have made talks about his journey as well. Of course, we don’t comprehend the pain he is suffering, this is why we can’t judge his decision to die. But, the shocking and irritating matter is that the movie was superficial towards Will’s pain, instead it focused on Lou’s pain and emotional failure. I think that this movie is publicity for Switzerland legal suicide companies and it takes advantage of people feelings to spread its message.