Me Before You Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Janet McTeer. Directed by Thea Sharrock. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday citywide.
So focused on wringing tears from the audience that its marketing campaign includes branded boxes of tissues, Me Before You is a bit more tasteful and sophisticated than a Nicholas Sparks movie, but its glossy, predictable romance (based on the bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes) doesn’t reach very far below the surface. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke tries way too hard as Louisa Clark, a working-class young woman with a relentlessly chipper demeanor and a garish wardrobe that looks like she bought it at Manic Pixie Dream Girls R Us. At first, Louisa’s sunny attitude can’t get through to her new client, a wealthy former playboy named Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), who’s now quadriplegic and in need of constant care. But soon he comes to appreciate her positive outlook on life and her blinding fashion sense.
Louisa and Will’s inevitable romance takes far too long to get going, and Clarke’s overstated performance is more exhausting than endearing. British theater director Thea Sharrock, in her feature debut, makes every moment look like a commercial for some unattainable luxury brand, even as Will is struggling with complications from his injuries. Those struggles give the movie its only real emotional weight, as Will quietly makes plans to end his life. Even that storyline plays out safely and predictably, though, providing carefully tailored moments for the use of those promotional tissues, but nothing that lingers for much longer.