Me Before You was such a successful novel that when it was announced that an adaptation was in the works, fans of the book were caught between hesitation and excitement. Even when the book's author, Jojo Moyes, was announced as the screenwriter, there were doubts. Because, when a book is that loved, you don't want it messed with.
Fortunately, Moyes has proven with this screenplay that she is not just a brilliant novelist but also a great screenwriter, with a spot-on understanding of what works on screen and how to compact her story successfully into a feature film.
If it wasn't integral to the story then it wasn't included in the film. Did Will need to have a sister in order for us to appreciate the issues faced by his family? No. We had his parents for that. Do we need the tension at Lou's house, the sibling rivalry and animosity, or the claustrophobic nature of her home in order to appreciate the family? No. They can be packed into the small house and still be loving and supportive.
Though there are some minor character traits and side plots which are forgotten, the major one that may surprise fans of the book is the total absence of a particular maze and all the events which took place. Now it might seem like a whopping great omission but having revisited the story I can see why it was left out. There is no question that this was of huge importance in the book. It explains Lou and it allows Will to be the one who makes her face up this key moment in her life and start to move forward from it. Yet in the film there simply isn't time. Other elements would needed to have been cut in order to properly go into what happened in that maze or else it would have been thrown in almost as an afterthought. Either option just didn't seem to work. Moyes herself even tweeted a fan, explaining that they tried to fit it in but just couldn't figure out a way to do it properly. The people are still going in the same direction. We're just spared some of the specifics.
The casting is so impressive. Very unlike her Khaleesi role, Emilia Clarke IS Lou. She's cute and adorable and chatty and a little bit bonkers – in the best kind of way. Sam Claflin similarly takes on Will, an extremely complex character, with apparent ease. The supporting cast, from Janet McTeer to Charles Dance, are all equally awesome to watch. And this brilliant ensemble are guided through the story by director Thea Sharrock, who displays the same genius command of storytelling as Moyes. The whole team have really come together here to tell this much beloved story.
It's a delight to see that, after some authors who probably should have been consulted on their adaptations and weren't (and some who shouldn't have but were!), authors are finally being acknowledged for their talents, not ignored. We are in a new era now when authors of great books are afforded not just the courtesy of being consulted on the adaptations of their own stories but the opportunity to write the script themselves. Gillian Flynn did it with Gone Girl, Emma Donoghue did it with Room, and now Jojo Moyes has done a phenomenal job with Me Before You.
So get your bumble bee tights on and go and see this absolute treasure. Then go home and re-read the book!
Book – 5
Film – 4