About a year ago I had read Jojo Moyes’ novel “Me Before You”, a love story between an under-privileged girl and a rich handicapped man who meet as Will (the leading male character) needs a caretaker and Lou (the leading female character) needs a job. These characters who come from two totally different worlds find love in the midst of their differences. The novel is strong, exciting, beautiful and devastating.
I cried my eyes out when it ended. I truly can’t think of another book I have read that had this effect on me. I generally am not a fan of romance novels as it is, because they always seem to have an ending just like the last and have the same cheesy story-line. If I ever am reading a romance novel, it’s because I occasionally feel like an easy-read, where the plot is simple and predictable, taking very little effort out of me to read it. I was shocked when I read this novel and it didn’t turn out to be this way. I was also equally shocked when I watched the movie last weekend and found out the movie is just as good.
How many movies are just as good as their novels? Hardly any. One to a million- never as good. This is why I am writing to you today, because I know book lovers like me always feel this way, yet we watch the movie in hopes that it will fulfill us the way the book did, and we are always a little disappointed.
Not this time.
The movie was fantastic and fulfilling to me as a reader. Shocking, I know.
There were a few little points in the movie where I wished it had reflected the novel better, but I think the movie did the best it could at reaching all of those important points without making the movie last longer than 2 hours. In the book, there are parts where the story isn’t necessarily progressing, but in those times we are learning more about the emotions of the characters. This, I think, is the biggest downfall of television. When we read, the story can pause and talk about something else, teach readers something about the characters that otherwise wouldn’t have moved along with the story as it was being told before. These are the subjects in books that we as readers miss out on when we watch the movie, and it frustrates us to the core. We learn more about characters and their relationship to the story in these little lapses in time in novels, and there is simply no translation of this concept in the television script.
The movie portrays the characters only in a dim light compared to that of the novel. But of course, this is to be expected as I had mentioned earlier. Lou’s character, although the movie does portray her this way, is an average-looking, unexciting, underprivileged girl. She has a few quirks that she finds unique, but knows they aren’t redeeming to others. The movie doesn’t describe her feelings towards herself quite at all, but the novel lets us know that she feels she is stuck in a rut, has dreams that she doesn’t believe she will ever achieve, and has a real hard time finding her purpose in her world and the world of her peers, especially Will’s. However, the fact that understood any of this through the movie is a win.
In a way, watching the movie brings the characters more to life than they were in the book. I think as readers we feel the presence of the characters through their emotions, but don’t usually understand them to be real people (of course, because the aren’t). And when we watch a movie based on a novel we have read, we end up very disappointed because the movie never reaches the high-point we got in the novel, leaving readers with no way to even compare the novel to the movie because they seem like totally different stories.
My point, readers, is that this movie did just that. It reached a point of comparison, to where now we can feel the presence of the characters through the emotions of the novel, and understand the characters existence through their actions and visibility through the television screen.
Will’s character in the novel is way more off-putting than it is in the movie. He seems very depressed and very angry, specifically to those who pity him and think they are helping, but aren’t. He’s vulgar, rude, and damaged, all qualities that we witnessed in the movie, but are better understood through the novel. The love Will has for Lou becomes evident way earlier in the novel than it does in the movie, and it is more dreadful to the reader that Lou is unaware. She continues her pathetic relationship with her boyfriend of many empty years, a reflection of her low-ambition that is understood by the reader. While watching the movie, this may not be as clear, however, when they spill their love for each other at the climax of the story, the revelation is is quite an event, and in my opinion, better than it was in the novel.
When Will and Lou finally express their love for each other, Will hits her with news that she absolutely didn’t want to hear. We find out about half way through the story Will’s plans at the end of the 6 month contract he made with his parents, and this is when Lou decides she is going to change his mind, to keep him here, and after she spends some time trying to change his mind about life and what he can still receive from it, she falls in love with him, and wants him to stay for her. This is the beginning of the devastating plot twist we all spent time hoping that would become a happy ending. It does not. It continues to be devastating as Lou decides to never speak to Will again, allowing him to do as he pleases without her having any part in it. We as readers (and viewers) have a huge knot in our gut telling her “Just be with him! You only have so much time!”, which is exactly how I felt while reading the novel, and then all over again when I saw the movie.
The movie was more heart-breaking (but beautiful) as we watch, literally watch, Lou unfold and expose the life she thought she wanted with him, but possibly knew she never would all along. I believe she learned that, in the end, Will was right about what she needed. He spent the whole story telling her that she could be so much more than a young girl working to pay her family’s bills and retiring in the same town she grew up in. He believed she deserved to see the world, to experience the things she only had dreamt of, but never thought she could, and growing bigger than life with him while he is grounded to his wheelchair. After his death, he gave her the means to go and experience life the way he wish he could have alongside her, but knew his health would keep her from doing so, and that she would allow it. He gave her the life she deserved, and he believed she deserved it without him.
But really, it’s beautiful. It can be much appreciated by the reader and the viewer, and even by those like me who don’t even like romance novels. A love that we all dream of having, taken away so unfortunately, but only could have existed in the circumstances given to them. Truly a work of art, the story is brought to us through emotional elements in the novel and supported with advancement in the movie.
Through the look into the physical love between 2 characters who were unlikely to be lovable by anyone else, it was found in each other’s misfortune and celebrated for several more novels that Moyes continued to write. Please, readers, let’s find out what happens with Lou next, together, and hope that the sequel is just as good as the first.
If you haven’t had a chance to grab a copy for yourself, find one here.