By Mary McLeod
"Me Before You" is a humanist movie. That is belied by its title, because humanism stands in part for caring about the needs of others, and putting yourself first is hardly that.
This film is about a smart, wealthy young Englishman who is mowed down by a motorcyclist in the prime of youth, and then is destined to live his life as a quadriplegic. He quickly acquires a nasty attitude toward anyone who comes within snarling distance, including a sunny young woman hired as a companion to watch over him. She is not trained as a nurse, and that is not her job. Her job is to cheer him up, a seemingly impossible task. But her cheerful disposition and colorful, quirky wardrobe eventually break through his awful outlook, and, as it seems all movies must allow, they begin to like each other; and have some fun; and care about each other's futures. Along the way, we are told, but are hardly shown, that he also has to endure a great deal of pain and frequent illness.
Accompanied by his male nurse, the couple takes a private jet to Majorca, where they loll around in the moonlight and apparently spend the night together -- no juicy details on those nights. While there, a secret they each knew but didn't know the other knew, comes to light, ending the idyllic mood: that he plans to end his life soon, because it is no longer worth living.
The movie has a humanist bent in at least two regards. First, this young man does not believe in the supernatural. Second, he also believes he has a right to determine his own life -- and death. For him, it is a calculation of not wanting to, and feeling he is not able to, live his life in this condition, having had a taste of a far more powerful, heady existence in the world of London finance. He even finds a service in Switzerland that will handle the details of his suicide amid pleasant surroundings.
Does he follow through with these plans, or can love and guilt talk him out of it? If we told you that, you'd have no need to go see it, would you? Some parts of this flick are a wee bit formulaic, such as the sappy parts where he tells her to scram, she stands up to him, and he melts. If only life were always so. Then there’s the part where they're both gorgeous, and more or less fall in love… and so on. However, there are other passages that challenge any moviegoer's thinking, and I found I was torn over what to even wish for and hope for, for these two, under such sad circumstances.
By the time this reaches you, the movie may be in second- or third-run movie houses, or on Netflix. Then come find me and tell me what you were wishing for on their behalf. Let's talk.