(NEW YORK) — Based on the book by Jojo Moyes, Me Before You opens by introducing us to Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) on the morning of what we’re about to learn is a life-altering accident. He wakes up next to a beautiful woman, they seem very happy, he offers to cook dinner later, gets dressed in an expensive suit, and leaves his flat in the pouring rain while trying to conduct business on his cell phone — which distracts him from the motorcycle that hits him.
A couple of years later, we’re introduced to the quirky and kind Louisa Clark, played with surprising exuberance and charm by Emilia Clarke, best-known as the no-nonsense Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen on HBO’s Game of Thrones. If you were a fan of GoT and saw this movie, and had never seen Clarke without her GoT wig and costume, you likely would never know it’s the same person.
When we first meet Lou, she’s working in a bakery and tea shop. That is, until she’s fired. Desperately in need of a job but with few real skills, an employment agency places her with the Traynor family, who are looking for an aide to help Will, paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair since his accident.
Lou is the fifth aide Will’s mother has hired, and even though Lou has almost no qualifications for this kind of job, Mrs. Traynor is taken by her personality. You know who isn’t? Will.
The development of Will and Lou’s relationship is predictable, but so is a warm and sunny day. And that’s how good Clarke makes you feel here. This is an outstanding, surprising performance by her, a cross between Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and Sally Hawkins in the 2008 British import Happy Go Lucky.
There are flaws with Me Before You, most notably issues with direction in the movie’s most pivotal scene, but Clarke’s performance is so strong, I’m willing to put it aside. Claflin is fine, but Clarke will break your heart and help you recognize Daenerys Targaryen is just the beginning for a brilliant actress who’s going to have a very long and distinguished career.
Four out of five stars.
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