There is an old joke that states something to the effect men like movies where a whole lot of people die really quickly and women like movies where one person dies really slowly.
Playing up to that latter stereotype is “Me Before You,” a movie that checks all of the boxes of a conventional tearjerker. But even though it is formulaic, never once is it eye-rolling-ly egregious and, thanks to a charming cast, it’s not too painful an experience for anyone dutifully drug along on a date.
“Me Before You” is the story of Lou Clark (played by Emilia Clarke, who is best known as dragon-riding queen Daenerys on “Game of Thrones”), a shop-girl from a working-class British family.
Lou is a free spirit with a sense of humor that is nearly as goofy as her taste in clothes. Looking for a job, Lou answers an ad to be a caretaker for Will Traynor (played by Sam Claflin, who is best known for being generally handsome in “The Hunger Games” movies), an attractive, wealthy titan of industry who is struck down by an accident and left a quadriplegic.
Will is rude and bitter, but Lou is determined to stick with the job and it is not long before an unlikely friendship blossoms between the two. There’s not much else I need to tell you as you can see where this is going from space.
I have to admit I spent the first quarter of the movie happily spotting familiar faces among the supporting cast. Hey, look! There’s Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) from “Downton Abbey” as Lou’s father! And Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) from “Doctor Who” is her sister! Oh, and the evil Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) from “Game of Thrones” is Will’s father! And what’s this? Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) from “Harry Potter” is Lou’s dopey boyfriend!
Once I got all of my nerdy pop-culture connections out of the way, the chemistry between Clarke and Claflin was enough to carry the movie smoothly to the end. It is also nice to see Clarke playing a warm, ditzy character that is the polar opposite of the role that made her famous. Good to know she has another pitch in her arsenal.
Director Thea Sharrock does an admirable job in her feature debut of not letting things get too sappy or maudlin while working with a screenplay by Jojo Moyes, who adapted her own best-selling novel.
Even when the thorny subject of euthanasia comes up, the movie deals with the weighty issue directly without getting overly sanctimonious. That’s a pretty impressive feat for a movie of this ilk.
As weepy-romances go, “Me Before You” is about as good as you can hope for. Sure it’s emotionally manipulative and gives a light touch to serious subject matter, but then that’s exactly what the target audience has signed up for.
You can never fault a movie for doing a good job of giving the people what they want.
“Me Before You” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some suggestive material.