Warning: this post contains spoilers for book and film “Me Before You”.
Before I begin this post, I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to Jojo Moyes (the author of the book and screenplay), Sam Clafin (Will), Emilia Clarke (Lou) and the rest of the incredible cast and crew who worked on this film.
You have no idea how much this story meant to someone like me and I applaud all of you for the way you wrote and portrayed it.
Watch the “Me Before You” official trailer. Post continues below…
It’s very rare that people with physical disabilities get the opportunity to have stories told about their experiences (both physical and emotional) on the big screen.
So, you can imagine my joy when, I as a person who lives with Cerebral Palsy, I was introduced to the idea of a film called “Me Before You”.
For those of you don’t know, it’s a love story between Will who is a quadriplegic after being injured in an accident and his carer Lou, a bright-eyed English village girl. I loved the idea of there being a romantic movie where someone who has a significant physical disability (Will is paralysed from the neck down) could find love with a girl whom it didn’t seem to bother that he was a quadriplegic.
For anyone who has heard the controversy surrounding this film, I assure you, Lou’s love for Will doesn’t change.
A few weeks ago, however, I accidentally stumbled across something that spoiled the plot. This led me to realise there was a fierce debate amongst disability advocates and the world as to a key and rather controversial issue that both the book and its film adaptation explore.
WARNING: IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS, LOOK AWAY NOW.
The film tackles the issue of assisted euthanasia as Will wishes to end his life and does.
To put this in context, a person with any physical disability or any condition of either a life-altering sort or something that makes them different in any way will often experience feelings of deep frustration, anger, loneliness and even anxiety or depression.
I know I do.
It is these feelings that originally had me hesitant to see this movie. I understand all too well and I thought it might be triggering material, especially at the moment with my own emotional battles and current issues.
But I did.
You have to consider the fact that this character was an incredibly athletic, able-bodied man who lived a very physically-orientated life prior to his accident.
The frustration of not being able to do even the simplest things that I can guarantee any able-bodied person would take for granted; being able to go to the toilet naturally, feeding yourself, using anything from your neck down after being able to do them and many more would be a crushing frustration.
For the record, this frustration is sometimes scary at its intensity and I have a lot more movement than anyone who is living with quadriplegia.
Sam Clafin and Emilia Clarke as Will and Lou. "Image source: Warner Bros.
To be clear, the other characters in the film do not encourage this idea of unassisted euthanasia.
In fact they react as many around the world (including paraplegics and people with other physical disabilities have) with shock, anger, disgust and grief for in the real world, they believe it sends a dangerous and toxic message that death is better than life with a physical disability.
I completely understand that message and I thought I agreed with it. But I don’t think that’s the case at all.
I think the issue that it doesn’t shy anything from anything. It is brutally raw. It forces people with disabilities to examine thoughts and feelings they perhaps don’t want to. In no way does the film condone it.
They fight to change Will’s mind as does the book I am sure, but Will is desperate and hopeless, at his last resort for the physical, mental and emotional pain he feels is all consuming.
He has tried for two years to make the best of it before he allows another 6 months to get his affairs in order and then ends his life.
It’s not as though this takes place directly after his accident and that he would rather die than try to live. He has tried. He is exhausted. He doesn’t want to and can’t keep trying.
Initially, it seems that his interactions with Lou will change his mind and that he will choose to live. But he doesn’t.
At its core though, this is still a love story that transforms the both of them and shows audiences that love can exist deeply and beautifully between any two people.
Love is standing by a person even if you don’t agree with the choices the other person makes. I’m not trying to enter into a debate on whether assisted euthanasia is a morally right practice but I think quality of life is subjective.
You can’t force someone to live when they don’t want to. You can’t tell them what their quality of life is. It’s a choice.
A choice that people are capable of making. I think the positive thing it teaches people who have disabilities it that it reminds us that there will eventually be people out there who love us for who we are even if there isn’t right now. It inspires us to live and fight against our demons so that we don’t end up feeling as though assisted euthanasia is our only choice.
Can you imagine a life where you’re forced to watch from the sidelines while everyone else around you has the life you were supposed to or the life you could have easily had?
Can you imagine knowing that daydreams about you living this life are only ever going to exist in your head?
Can you imagine living in a body that doesn’t do what you want it to no matter how hard you try or a body that can constantly be wracked by unimaginable pain?
I can because that’s my life. That’s why I sobbed so hard last night in the front row of the cinema (I couldn’t get up the stairs) because I know.
I have felt that desperation hopelessness and anger. All the emotions he felt I know inside and out as though they were my own. I guess they are. I laughed too though because this movie and I’m sure the book is the same, I can’t wait to read it show the struggles, the desires and the dark humour of a person who has a disability.
They hit the nail on the head. There are parts obviously that are not humorous. At one point Will is talking about how every time he closes his eyes, he can see his life in the body he had before.
Every time I close my eyes, there’s an able-bodied version of me in my head. She has a great life that I’ve invented for her. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in denial about my condition or its permanence and I know I have a brilliant life which could be a lot worse but it’s exhausting and maddening and part of me hates it.
I would recommend that everyone sees this film because it’s beautiful, sad, and polarising but it’s also incredibly, incredibly important.