Saturday, 4 June 2016

Why I refuse to see 'Me Before You'

I want to get serious for a moment here. Now before you run off in fear let me explain, I try to reserve judgement for a film until I see it, until I am able to sit down and experience it first-hand. Chances are that I am going to like the next Paul Thomas Anderson movie, chances are similarly high that I will dislike whatever nonsensical tripe Michael Bay releases next, but I like to think that when all is said and done I have supplied the most impartial and objective view of that film that I possibly can. It’s why I’ve never committed to boycotting a film before, because I always felt that you just never know until you actually experience it.

But everyone reacts differently to different subjects. I feel as if everyone brings their own perspective to film and their own viewpoint of what it should represent. The issues I’m going to talk about here may not affect you at all, and if so then great, enjoy your movie. But for me there’s a distinct problem with ‘Me Before You’ that I can’t quite bring myself to ignore. Now originally I saw the TV spots and didn’t think much of it, but then suddenly I heard about a controversy surrounding the film. For those of you who don’t know the premise centres on a carer who is sent to look after Will, a successful, wealthy man who enjoyed all aspects of his life until being paralysed in a motorcycle accident. As one would expect a budding romance soon develops. Spoilers ahead: The film concludes with Will flying to Switzerland to end his life, encouraging his new found love to make the most of her life and “live well”.

It might help if you get a bit of history about me. I have a brother with autism, he goes to a school with other children who have varying disabilities. I know many of them, I’ve spoken to many of them and I can tell you now that some of them are far worse off than being the wealthy and handsome paralysed man. According to this film to live in such a condition is worse than being dead. I know that in reality this subject is a complex and delicate one, it requires a lot of thought and consideration. What it does not require is to be turned into a sappy and exploitative romance that glosses over any real detail of pain and suffering that these people experience on a daily basis.

I can’t begin to understand what it must be like to live with a disability, but I like to think that I know a bit more than the producers of this film. I’m not saying it’s impossible to tell this story but a few things about its execution annoy me. Firstly, there’s a certain hypocrisy to a film that centres on a young man deciding that his life is no longer worth living but ends with the words “live well”, encouraging people to make the most of their lives. Shouldn’t that be “live well, as long as you’re not disabled in which case you might as well give up”, and where’s the cut-off point? As I already said he’s the wealthy philanthropist with many people that love him, friends, family and a loving girlfriend who looks suspiciously like Daenerys Targaryen. What about people who have lost a limb, or have a mental disorder but like many people don’t have the vast fortune and support from the people around them?

Secondly, I understand that people with disabilities are burdened both physically and mentally on a level I and most people can’t comprehend. I also understand that this is a personal decision that cannot really be condoned nor condemned. But from what I can understand the film never shows any of this. We get a few lines of expositional dialogue about Will’s suffering but we never see it and if the excuse for such an exclusion is something like “most audiences don’t want to see that” then you only prove how little you care for the subject. In reality the people who live with this situation and the people around them don’t get to decide what they can and can’t see, they live with it every day. Imagine if while on the set of ‘My Left Foot’ someone walked up to Daniel Day Lewis and said “can we tone down the disabilities, it might make the audiences uncomfortable”. If you’re trying to tell an important message and address a subject then great, but don’t wrap it up in some sappy and melodramatic love story.

I’m not of the belief that people just go out and do what they see in a movie. But a small part of me worries what could happen is some impressionable soul watched this film and was soon after involved in some horrific accident that rendered them in the same position. What would they think? Or on a lesser level, are people who watch this movie forever going to look at people with disabilities and assume that they all wish they were dead?

I understand that such a decision is a personal one but if that is the case then why doesn’t the film make more of an effort to justify why Will has chosen to make such a decision, why despite the incredible wealth and supportive friends he has reached this conclusion?

Well that wasn’t very fun. As I said (like all things on this blog) this is just my personal opinion, if it doesn’t bother you then by all means watch the film, and let me know what you thought, let me know if you thought I was being unfair. Dismiss this as being SJW propaganda if you want (I’ll be loped in with ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ if I am) Thanks and bye.

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