Author Topic: ME BEFORE YOU (2016)  (Read 118 times)

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Offline agate

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« on: May 11, 2017, 11:12:30 am »


In some ways this movie goes a  long way towards clearing up some misconceptions about the nature of quadriplegia, but in other ways it errs dangerously. And it is riddled with so many warm-and-fuzzy elements that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep watching it. The sound track is mostly tacky, but maybe I have the problem here. Maybe I give entirely too much attention to the sound tracks in movies.  Nevertheless, it seems as if the background music often sets the emotional tone for the viewer’s experience of the movie.

The music tends to be somber but on the sentimental, saccharine side, and it is there while we see this young man, Will Traynor, who happens to have infinite amounts of money but has had an accident that left him a quadriplegic, being gruff (but not really) with his new attendant, Lou Clark, a naive young woman just trying to earn some money to help her family out.

It seems Will has decided to end it all. The pain of his condition is just too much for him. He had a nifty girl friend once, before the accident, but now she’s moved on to his best friend. As for the misery of the quadriplegia, we don’t see much of it but a couple of times we hear about it, and he takes painkillers, and there are a couple of scenes where he’s suffering. But by and large he’s his movie-star-handsome, dimply self, attracting Lou to him like a fly to flypaper.

Lou learns by overhearing his parents’ discussion that he’s decided to end his life soon, and so the clock is ticking. Lou, somewhat predictably, decides that the way to get him to change his mind about this would be to deluge him with good times, in a sort of “See! Life is worth living!” spirit.

So off they go to concerts and whatever, in a whirlwind of activity, all of which must be costing a bundle but money doesn’t enter into the picture much, except to establish that “they” –Will’s family–can afford whatever it takes.  He has a well-appointed residence with several attendants. His parents are right there, both seemingly able-bodied and  caring.

But (SPOILER ALERT) Will’s mind is made up, and the last part of the movie is meant to be sad. Somehow it seemed less sad to me than it was yet another movie using a person’s misfortune or disability to pull out all the stops emotionally.

Yes, the movie makes the point that paralysis leaves a person vulnerable to extremes of heat and cold, susceptible to injury and infection, and that those motorized chairs get stuck in sandy or muddy terrain–but if you’re as lucky as Will Traynor, a bunch of strong helpers will materialize to assist you by pulling you and your chair out of the muck.

Some of the movie’s attempts at being sensitive are just silly. And some are just plain wrong-headed.

But none of this addresses what is probably the main point of this movie–that a person has the right to die.  The question is whether the people Will will leave behind ought to bend every fiber trying to prevent him. These are people who know it would be foolish to try to stop him by physical restraint–their problem is how (or whether) to try to persuade him to live.

Since they love him and want him to know he is valued, obviously they are going to try to talk him out of suicide, but since they’re reasonable and understanding people, they are willing to respect his decision.  By bringing this issue into the foreground and treating it calmly and reasonably, the movie is doing a great service, for assisted suicide has been a hot-button issue for quite a while.

My quarrel is with whether this particular person, this young, handsome, prosperous, formerly successful Will Traynor, who still enjoys watching DVDs, listening to music, going places and associating with his family and attendants, is understandable in his determination to end his life. I have an impression that many people, knowing what they know about his situation from this movie, wouldn’t understand his wish to kill himself, either. He has too much going for him.

If the movie had shown him in constant pain and suffering, we would want to see his misery end, and we would understand if he opted for suicide. But that would have been a real downer of a movie.  Movies that are too depressing might not do well at the box office.

So maybe this movie  shouldn’t have been made. Or it could have been a documentary about some person or people who have chosen this option–people whose suffering had become intolerable to them.

The spotlight has been on paralyzing types of disabilities in recent years, and that is probably good in an era when there has been a tendency to ignore disabled people or to tuck them away in a corner. But sometimes inattention might have been preferable to a misguidedly sugar-coated representation of a disability such as we have here.
MS Speaks--online for 13 years

SPMS, diagnosed 1980. Avonex 2001-2004. Copaxone 2007-2010.


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