Entertainment·MOVIE REVIEW

Me Before You and Into the Forest

Presented with a book-to-screen romantic tale and a near-future survival story, Eli Glasner cuts through the clutter to advise what's worth your time at the cinema this week.

CBC's Eli Glasner cuts through the cinematic clutter and shares new releases that are worth your time

In the new movie Me Before You, Lou (Emilia Clarke) -- with her cherubic disposition and wardrobe best described as Cyndi Lauper-meets-Bjork -- bursts into Will's (Sam Claflin) life like a veritable breath of fresh air. Or at least she would, if he wasn't such an ass, says CBC's Eli Glasner. (Alex Bailey/Warner Bros. Entertainment/Associated Press)

Me Before You

Not unlike a moist towelette, the romance Me Before You is dripping with emotion and sanitized for your protection. Stepping away from her role in Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke stars in Me Before You as Lou, a young working-class woman taking a job as a personal care assistant. Her charge is Will Traynor (played by Sam Claflin), a rich titan of finance who has sustained a spinal cord injury.

Me Before You doesn't really show any of the challenging day-to-day realities facing those living with quadriplegia, says CBC's Eli Glasner. (Alex Bailey/Warner Bros. Entertainment/Associated Press)

With her cherubic disposition and wardrobe best described as Cyndi Lauper-meets-Bjork, Lou bursts into Will's life like a veritable breath of fresh air — or at least she would, if he wasn't such an ass. It seems the accident that left his body partially paralyzed also removed any shred of decency in him. At least, that's where we start: this is a romance after all.  

There are a few good things about Me Before You. Clarke is adorable as Lou, a character about as far away from GoT's Daenerys as possible. As the frustrated Will, Claflin (who you may recognize as Finnick from The Hunger Games) cuts a striking profile and sneers with the best of them.  

But [SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!] things take a turn when she discovers his plans to end his life at Dignitas, the real life clinic in Switzerland. 

Leaving aside the complex issue of assisted dying, one of the film's biggest problems is how much Me Before You shields the audience. For a supposed romance, it's surprisingly prudish. There's no practical discussion about sex, which Will admits he misses. For many disabled people dealing with the very same care issues, Will is in an almost ideal circumstance: his family is so well off they own an actual castle. In addition to Lou, there is another personal care worker to do the heavy lifting.

In fact, Me Before You doesn't really show any of the challenging day-to-day realities facing those living with quadriplegia. Instead, what we get is Will — with his Calvin Klein features — sitting in his tastefully decorated sitting room, while his mother moons over a shrine memorializing the man he once was.

The movie, based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, wants us to buy into the tragic romance of Will's choice, asking both Lou and the audience to support it. Yet the film doesn't even have the courage to truly show us what drove him to the decision. For a film with the catch phrase #LiveBoldlyMe Before You is a timid cop out.  

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 stars


Into the Forest

With Into the Forest, starring Ellen Page (left) and Evan Rachel Wood, director Patricia Rozema isn't playing by the typical apocalyptic handbook, says CBC's Eli Glasner.

Into the Forest is an exercise in managing expectations. Set in a near-future scenario where the West Coast is plunged into a never-ending blackout, the story centres on sisters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood), who live in the woods with their quietly capable father (Callum Keith Rennie).

At first the sisters are surprisingly blasé about their predicament, with Nell focussed on her medical textbooks, as dancer Eva spends hours in her studio, jerking her body with a rigid kind of emotional fury.  

As director Patricia Rozema begins to torque the tension, however, the actions of the two young women are increasingly frustrating. Careless accidents and bad choices litter the story. But as the pace slackens and the true scope of the situation takes holds, it's obvious the filmmaker isn't playing by the typical apocalyptic handbook.

There are no widescreen scenes of looting, no horizon filled with smoking ruins. Isolated in the woods, information trickles in through whispers and rumours. As supplies dwindle, the two sisters only have themselves.

This is not The Road, nor Mad Max. Based on the novel of the same name by Jean Hegland, Into the Forest has its share of dramatic scenes, but Rozema is more focused on the emotional effects of the crisis.

Nell finds her own strength as she adapts and evolves. Eva's arc is difficult to watch, but Rozema doesn't shy away from the harrowing aspects of her story. The result is a stark, emotional story about survival and sisterhood —  depicting not dystopia per se, but a new beginning. 

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

About the Author

Eli Glasner

Entertainment reporter and film critic

Eli Glasner is a national entertainment reporter and screentime columnist for CBC News. Covering culture has taken him from the northern tip of Moosonee, Ont. to the Oscars red carpet and beyond.  

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