Page to Screen: Me Before You

me-before-you

Film Adaptation–love it or hate it, it’s an undeniable part of our culture.

For my part, I love it. Even when it’s done poorly (and goodness knows it is), it still has the power to get people talking critically about art and adaptation.

Some Pertinent Facts:

  • Film release date: June, 2016
  • Director: Thea Sharrock (in her directorial debut)
  • Book release date: January 2012
  • Author: Jojo Moyes

The film version of Me Before You is actually really close to its source material. Part of this is due to the fact that the author had a pretty big hand in writing the screenplay, but that’s still not always the case. Joan Didion wrote a screenplay version of her book and still felt that film did not really capture the original.

However, unlike Joan Didion’s work, I think Me Before You is much more visual and externally focused. In that way, the book can sort of come to life. The setting near the castle helps to anchor the story, while Louisa Clark’s costumes help to bring her character to life for us. They mark her as more complicated than she appears to be.

Though I think that the film for the most part really captures its source material, there are a few interesting parts of the book that are left out of the film, and I thought I’d look at a few of those and discuss the choices.

There are a few spoilers here (from the book), so if you want to be surprised by them please stop reading.

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Most of the characters in the book make it into the film, but the character we don’t get to see is Will’s sister. In the book she is very angry with her brother and with her parents for honoring Will’s decision. She isn’t in the book very much, and honestly the decision to omit her makes sense–she doesn’t really add anything.

The difference in Mr. Traynor’s character however, is a little more interesting. Will’s father definitely comes off as aloof in the film, but most of this we put down to his “Englishness.” He tries to be there for his son and respect his wishes. The relationship between him and Mrs. Traynor seems to be fairly solid, despite the emotional stress they’re under. In the book however, we see two people who were on the brink of divorce sticking it out for their son as well as the sake of appearances. Mr. Traynor is clearly unfaithful to his wife, and is often absent at crucial times.

The character’s change in the movie makes him seem far more rational and more of the concerned parent, but it also makes him way less complicated.

By far the largest omission in the book concerns the main character. We learn that the real reason for Louisa’s life choices is not that she has felt obligated to her parents, although she does, or that she’s willing to settle for less. Instead, Clark has been a survivor of sexual assault and she’s leading a very safe life because it’s the only way she can feel secure again. Will helps her to work through that.

I think maybe this was omitted because it’s one more heavy thing to deal with in a film that’s already pretty emotional, but in the light of the #metoo movement, the omission feels a little glaring. Why deny Lou’s complicated past?

 

What did you think of Me Before You? Have you read the book or seen the film or both? Let me know in the comments!

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