In addition to being a potentially crappy film whose one good byproduct is this Jessie Ware song, Me Before You has also become a controversial movie among disabled people and advocates for people with disabilities.
Despite a trailer that looks awfully sappy and uninspiring, the movie brought in a better-than-expected $18.3 million over the weekend. Based on the book of the same name, it stars Emilia Clarke (Louisa) as a woman who cares for a rich family’s quadriplegic son Will, played by Sam Claflin.
The actor’s depiction of a disabled person doesn’t sit right with people who, playing off the idea of blackface, have cleverly/disturbingly accused him of “cripface” (a bad coining). Another point of protest is the film’s ending.
**SPOILER AHEAD, SO CHILL IF YOU READ FURTHER**
From The Hollywood Reporter:
Will has decided to seek assisted suicide and, despite the attempts of his mother and Louisa to dissuade him, remains resolute in his goal. The film ends with Louisa following Will’s last wishes for her, using the money he left her to travel and, as the movie’s tagline states, to “live boldly.” A small but vocal segment of the public are protesting the movie on Twitter with the hashtag #MeBeforeEuthanasia.
The issue, for the movie’s critics, is its implication that suicide is the ultimate solution for disabled people. Director Jenni Gold, who’s in a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy, tells THR, “Why always show disability as the worst thing?” Actor Zack Weinstein, a quadriplegic due to a spinal cord injury, calls the plot “emotionally manipulative.”
“The message of this movie is that it’s better for this person to die in order to be of service to her than for him to live...That has its place, but it’s very difficult to watch the facts of my life being used as the vehicle for that,” he says, and points to the one-note depiction of disabled people in movies. “What rubs me the wrong way as an actor and as somebody with a disability living in the real world is not that this story is being told. It’s that so frequently this is the only story of disability that is told.”
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the movie’s director Thea Sharrock described the ending (which stays true to the novel) as “brave” in response to critiques. “It’s interesting to me that the controversy has been much more than what JoJo ever got for the book. I guess that says a lot about movies and how out there they are in comparison to books,” she says. (Translation: blame the author). “There is something wonderful about knowing that the person next to you is also bawling their eyes out and you’re sharing that with them. I think that’s a hugely cathartic thing. That side of it, I’m really proud of.”
Image screengrab via YouTube