I was pleased to see one of my local towns on the big screen last month, in the hotly anticipated film adaptation of Jojo Moyes ‘Me Before you’. I finished reading Jojo Moyes’ best seller just weeks before the film was due to premiere in London and it was the first book that I have read in a long time to bring me to tears. Moyes characters are instantly believable and her attention to detail and delicate display of subject matter make for a heart warming and humorous read. Lou is the quirky and lovable twenty something who loses her job at a local café and finds herself accepting a job as a carer for Will Traynor, a young quadriplegic man. What appears to be a straight forward job soon turns into something far more complicated and Lou finds herself embarking on a powerful journey which changes her life and those around her forever.
I absolutely loved the book. I couldn’t put it down. It is one of those stories that you find yourself willing the working day to be over so you can return home and read. I lost hours and evenings wrapped up in the world Moyes had created and envied her for her fantastic characterisation. So I was very excited to see the film, particularly as I knew Jojo Moyes had written the screenplay, (a must for any writer in my view, I was once horrified to hear Joanne Harries say that the novel writer had no place on a film set!) Also because filming had taken place last year in Pembroke, a local town that’s a five minute drive from my house.
Within moments of the film beginning, Pembroke castle fills the screen in a long crane-style shot, with the mill pond in the foreground. It looks incredible on film. Lou’s original place of work, the buttered bun, is a local café and many people from the area appear as extras. As Lou moves around the café and talks to the customers we begin to see her loveable character come to life. Her quirky dress senses, helpful and cheery nature and desire to get the best out of everything comes across so clearly in Emilia Clark’s portrayal of our heroine. We later see Lou walking along the town’s main street, past bright coloured buildings with the castle in the background. She also cycles alongside the mill pond, in a colourful dress with a basket on the front, behind her bemused athlete boyfriend, Patrick.
Sam Claflin (Hunger Games), is quadriplegic Will, who struggles to adjust to a life that he feels is no longer his. Claflin does well to portray Will’s anger at his situation, as well as the vulnerability he tries to hide. His detest at Lou’s colourful wardrobe and cheerful approach to life only brings out her strength and determination to help him, whatever the cost. Clark (Hunger games) brings the literary heroine to life and the chemistry with Claflin is perfect. The story has only grown in strength by the addition of such beautiful scenery which serves to enhance the emotion of the story, rather than distract from the plot. As we see Will ride his electric wheelchair up the side of the castle towers, with Lou laughing and shouting warnings behind him, we are elevated too. But there are incredibly dark moments too and without already knowing the story, I fear I may have been sobbing in the cinema. Such a beautiful and very real story, perhaps unfairly criticised by the media and disability support groups for painting quadriplegics in a bad light.
There are some other familiar faces in the form of Lou’s family. Her straight-talking mother is played by Samantha Spiro. Brendan Coyle (Downton’s Mr Bates) is her caring Father, who struggles to keep the family afloat after losing his job. Jenna Coleman is Lou’s older sister Treena, who advises her on her new job and the growing feelings/anxieties she has for Will. Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter films) is Lou’s long term boyfriend Patrick who struggles to accept her new job and long hours, while focusing on the next athletic challenge. One of the funniest scenes in the film, which is often overshadowed by the limits of Will’s condition, involves a visit to Lou’s house by Will for her birthday. As Will’s natural charm works its magic on Lou’s family, while Lou feeds and attends to Will, Patrick looks on livid. Later, they exchange gifts, and it’s clear that Will knows Lou better. As he leaves, just to add flames to the fire, Will informs Patrick that his girlfriend gives ‘a good bed bath’ leaving the family standing aghast in the front garden.
For me, Me before you, is the best film I’ve seen this year. It keeps to the original storyline, promotes talented actors who enhance the wonderful characters Moyes has created and it features stunning Welsh scenery which I am proud to call my backyard.