"Me Before You," which opened with a better-than-expected $18.3 million at the box office this weekend, centers on Louisa "Lou" Clark (Emilia Clarke), a cheery 26-year-old perfectly content with her quiet life in England living with her struggling sister and parents. After Lou loses her job as a waitress, she winds up as a caretaker for Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a 31-year-old quadriplegic who was once a high-powered, thrill-seeking financier before he was hit by a motorcycle and paralyzed from the chest down.
REVIEW | ‘Me Before You’ delivers the plot points of the book but none of the emotion
The two don't exactly hit it off, as Will is in a deep depression. Though over time, they grow to appreciate each other and become close: Lou's infectious energy eventually softens Will's angry demeanor, while Will urges Lou to challenge herself and not settle for a dull, risk-free existence.
A major question about Lou is why a curious, intelligent woman would trap herself in a small town. In the book, her motivations are spelled out: Lou had a traumatic incident in high school when she was drinking with a group of boys — readers don't learn the details, though the implication is that she was sexually assaulted. Even Lou's boyfriend, Patrick, doesn't know about what happened. Throughout several emotional pages, Lou eventually tells Will about how her attackers impacted her life, and how she's still processing it: "I told him I saw their faces every time I went anywhere beyond the town, and how Patrick and Mum and Dad and my small life had been just fine for me, with all their problems and limitations. They had let me feel safe," Lou says.
Lou also uses the trauma to explain her odd wardrobe choices, as she wears bizarre patterns and crazy colors with her hair tied up in two knots — before the incident, she dressed in "normal" clothes, such as stylish jeans and tight t-shirts, which complemented her long hair and perfect makeup. "I had worked out who I was, and it was someone very different from the giggling girl who got drunk with strangers," she says. "It was someone who wore nothing that could be construed as suggestive."
Yet in the movie, when Will asks Lou why she's never left the town to explore the world, she shrugs it off with a vague remark about how she didn't finish college. There's no real explanation.
Jojo Moyes talks about the big-screen version of ‘Me Before You’
Turns out, Moyes and the director struggled to keep that plot point in the movie. As Moyes recently explained on NPR, in the book, the implication of Lou's sexual assault is an almost "throwaway" reference that catches the reader off-guard, and it's only mentioned briefly. In the movie screenplay, it couldn't work that way.
"I worked with director a long time writing this scene and trying different variations of it — it achieves a different weight when you do that in pictorial form. You cannot do it as a throwaway," Moyes said. "The more we tried, the more we realized it just skewed the tone of the whole thing. And you know, we still worry about that. But you have to make some decisions, you have to lose some things and all I can say is it was done with a great deal of consideration."
In an interview with the Washington Post's Book World, Moyes elaborated:
It's interesting how people react to that part of the book. Often when you read about rape in fiction, it's the defining event. I knew lots of girls who had similar events happen to them, and they tucked it away and moved on. We almost know before Louisa knows how much that's affecting her. The scene is very opaque in the book, but putting it on film gave it far more weight than it has in the book and it was changing the mood of the story. We tried for six months to make that scene.
The studio, Warner Bros., confirmed that the scene never made it into the shooting script and was never filmed. Ultimately, Moyes concluded, "It was a useful experience to learn you cannot translate some things into film."
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