I am not a fan of romantic films, be it comedies or dramas. However, occasionally, given the impetus of novel casting, I will check them out. The premise of this film itself did not exactly appeal to me. However, the casting of Emilia Clarke in the female lead really intrigued me. I had only known her before as Daenerys Targaryen the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi in "Game of Thrones", and I am very curious to see her in another role.
Will Traynor is a very wealthy businessman who became a paraplegic following a freak accident with a motorcycle. Trapped in a bed, a mechanized wheelchair and extreme depression, Will was already seriously considering to end it all. Enter the colorfully eccentric waitress Louisa Clark whom Will's mother hired to be his caregiver and companion. Will Lou's quirky infectious joie de vivre snap Will out from his perpetual negativity about his life?
It is not easy to describe Emilia Clarke's performance. It starts off so annoyingly chipper, as reflected by her ridiculous wardrobe of iridescent colors and flashy designs. However, as the film went along, we will find her irresistibly delightful. With her uninhibited performance, you can truly feel the innate goodness of her person, a selfless and sincere dedication to her responsibility. Her smashing scene wearing the red dress drew audible gasps from the audience when I watched.
Sam Claflin portrayed Will very well, capturing his steely determination as well as his dignity in the face of his incapacity. That he remained debonaire and dashing and well-built despite his condition was not realistic in the least, but hey, this is a romance film so we cut it some slack. The chemistry between Lou and Will was not instant. We witnessed it develop and it definitely was THERE.
The ensemble of British actors in this film worked very well together. Janet McTeer and Charles Dance (yes, Tywin Lannister of GoT!) play Will's supportive parents, Camilla and Steven Traynor. Australian actor Steve Peacocke had significant screen time as Nathan, Will's nursing aide. Brendan Coyle and Samantha Spiro play Lou's supportive parents, Bernard and Josie Clark. A very trim Matthew Lewis (a guy we once knew as chubby Nevill Longbottom in the Harry Potter films) plays Lou's clueless health buff boyfriend Patrick.
If I had any problem with the film, it is with a certain sensitive pro-choice topic upon which the whole conflict of the story was built upon. I cannot claim to know how paraplegics feel about their lives, but I feel it should not be with this ethically-problematic philosophy, especially as the patient here was basking in the warmth of all the love of the people around him. Selfishness is a loaded word in this discussion. Who was being selfish in this case -- the patient or his loved ones?
Director Thea Sharrock (in her feature film debut) skirted around the touchy issue using quirky humor and sweet sentimentality to bring to life the script by Jojo Moyes, who also wrote the novel upon which this film was based. Sharrock was fortunate to have a very likeable cast of actors to mitigate the heaviness of the theme. Some opposing views about the issue actually spoken by characters in the film. Ultimately though, it may still send the wrong message to vulnerable audiences, and this bothered me. 7/10.