Greetings again from the darkness. Who doesn’t enjoy a good cry in a dark movie theatre? The first feature film from director Thea Sharrock is taken directly from the tear-jerker novel by Jojo Meyes (who also wrote the screenplay). Although I try to avoid using the term very often, it’s very much a by-the-numbers chick flick … complete with the heart-of-gold working class girl trying her best to “save” the handsome rich guy to whom life has dealt a tough hand. For fans of the book and the genre, it should deliver the desired effect … the studio even provided movie logo tissues for the screening.
For most of us, the effectiveness of this type of movie comes down to the characters. Luisa is the effervescent working class girl hired as a personal assistant to the extremely wealthy quadriplegic Will Traynor. Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) does everything in her power to make us (and Will Traynor) like Luisa. To describe her as optimistic is like saying Eric Clapton can play guitar. Calling her perky would be like saying Donald Trump has hair. Both statements are true, but hardly capture the totality of reality. In stark contrast, Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) purposefully underplays Will … the one time cliff-diving, James Bond birthday video type now confined to a wheelchair.
Lu is a constant toothy smile complemented by expressive and active eyebrows that somehow overshadow her chatty bedside manner, and kaleidoscopic and geometric clothes and shoes … all encompassed with an ever-bouncy step that would make Tigger envious. Lu mostly shares the screen with Will and the personal nurse and therapist Nathan, played by Stephen Peacocke. The camera certainly loves all three of these faces, and director Sharrock wisely adds Janet McTeer and Charles Dance as Will’s parents. They bring a regal presence to what otherwise could have played a bit too cutesy.
Despite the heavy dose of “awww”, the story deserves credit for touching on the “right to die” or “dying with dignity” debate. While those closest to Will selfishly proclaim they don’t understand his plan to head to Switzerland, it’s Nathan who says it best … ‘who am I to judge’. While a full on discussion of the topic would be out of place here, the film does a nice job of not shying away from the process.
Other recognizable faces in the cast include Jenna Coleman (“Doctor Who”) as Lu’s sister and confidante, and Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter series) as Lu’s fitness freak boyfriend who isn’t very understanding … of either Lu or her job. There’s also an odd but welcome wedding cameo from Joanna Lumley. My biggest issue with the story is that I just never understood how or when Lu fell so deeply in love with Will. Sure, I get the appeal of the castle, the concertos, and the tropical vacations, but where was the real personal connection? Was it simply that she thought she could charm Will into changing his mind on the big decision? That’s not really love. Another piece that’s difficult to take … the numerous musical interludes seemingly designed to make sure viewers are in the proper state of melancholy. There was another segment that I found not just ironic, but actually annoying; however, discussion of the “Live boldly” advice would give away the film’s ending … something I’m not sure even matters since it’s made pretty clear throughout, but it still goes against my movie code.
Available on Digital HD now and Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday, August 30th.