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Me Before You (2016)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/30/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/26/2016

Since the dawn of cinema, we have had romances, or at least dramatic films which had a romantic slant. For decades, these films were enjoyed by men, women, and couples, and in some cases garnered praise and Academy Awards. However, in the 1980s, we began to see a shift in how these movies were viewed. Somewhere along the way, someone coined the term "Chick Flick" and there was a societal shift which implied that these films were made for a solely female audience. And, as if that weren't strange, it was somehow determined that these movies wouldn't be taken as seriously, no matter the subject. This idea persists to this day and it has created an environment where we go into certain films expecting very little. That was certainly the case with Me Before You.

Louisa "Lou" Clark (Emilia Clarke) is a young woman who lives in a small British town with her parents. As her father has been out of work, the family relies on Lou's income to get by. After she loses her job at a bake shop, she applies for a position as a caregiver. She visits the daunting Traynor residence, where she meets Camilla Traynor (Janet McTeer) for an interview. She learns that she would be working with Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a young man who is wheelchair-bound. Desperate for work, Lou takes the job. She is introduced to Will and finds him to be very standoffish. The good news is that Nathan (Stephen Peacocke), Will's medical aid, is very nice and help's to show Lou the ropes. Lou isn't sure how to approach the job at first, and sees herself as a sort of babysitter. She then becomes determined to get Will out of his shell and the two begin a friendship. But, there's still a question of whether or not Will can ever accept his circumstances.

Me Before You is an odd film which teeters between genres. There is no doubt that we are treading in "Chick Flick" territory. We've got an adorable female main character whose quirky attire is meant to make her approachable. Her sister (played by Doctor Who vet Jenna Coleman) is her best friend and, despite the odds, she's determined to better herself. When we learn the film's premise, there is little doubt that several things are going to happen -- 1) Will is going to be cold and mean to her at first; 2) He will eventually warm to her; and 3) Some sort of relationship will blossom. Despite the fact that Will is in a wheelchair, we still get a dancing scene and a travel montage. There is a scene where Lou is trying on clothes, but it does not become a full-blown fashion montage. Given the film's subject matter, one can't say that these moments are breezy, but they are certainly light in spots.

But, Me Before You is surprisingly dramatic as well. Again, Will, having been in an accident, has many medical problems and is prone to illness. While the movie never becomes a medical thriller, it does show us just how fragile he is. It also doesn't shy away from the fact that Will was once a vibrant, athletic, and successful person and that his condition has left him very bitter. The movie really takes some risks in the second half when it introduces some controversial ideas. I'm not going to give anything away here, but the movie doesn't pull any punches in the finale and makes some decisions which I know (from reading internet comments) shocked and angered some viewers.

Given this, Me Before You is definitely more than the average "Chick Flick". Yes, it's got clothes and romance and female bonding, but it also has a very serious core which helps to keep it grounded. The movie is also anchored by it's excellent cast. It's nice to see Clarke do something outside of Game of Thrones which allows her to emote and not just kill everybody in sight. Claflin is good as well, as he's able to be cold, but we never hate him. Along with McTeer, who is solid as usual, we have Charles Dance (another Games of Thrones alum) and Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey Brendan Coyle. Director Thea Sharrock makes her feature film debut here and she's managed to make a film which is emotional, but never manipulative. In the grand scheme of things, Me Before You is still standard melodrama, but it makes enough good decisions to keep it ahead of its contemporaries.

Me Before You tells us that you can be down on your luck and still have an enormous wardrobe on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably the bold tones and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture shows a nice amount of depth and the level of detail is admirable. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some key crowd scenes here which provide obvious stereo and surround effects. The travel scenes also show off some nice audio. The music in the film fills the speakers. Otherwise, we get a dialogue-driven drama.

The Me Before You Blu-ray Disc contains only three extras. "Me Before You: From Page to Screen" (6 minutes) offers comments from Author Jojo Moyes and Director Thea Sharrock who tell us about the book's beginnings and how the film was developed. Clarke and Claflin also chime in on their character. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 6 minutes. Most of these are simply small moments from other scenes, but there is a nice new scene with Clarke and McTeer. Finally, we get a 2-minute reel of OUTTAKES.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long