Me Before You Poster

New Line Cinema

If you haven't read Jojo Moyes' Me Before You, you're planning to see the movie, or you generally try and live a spoiler-free existence, you can keep on reading: We won't ruin the ending here.

Be warned, though, that if you venture onto Twitter or go too far down the Google rabbit hole, there are spoilers everywhere.

So, now that we've gotten that out of the way... You've you've probably seen previews for Me Before You, the drama starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. Emilia plays Louisa Clark, a 26-year-old woman who loses her job at a local cafe, and Sam plays Will Traynor, a wealthy, well-educated 35-year-old man who became a quadriplegic in an accident two years before. Long story short, Louisa (Emilia) finds employment as a caregiver for Will (Sam). We're not spoiling the plot for you here, but you discover even within a 2 minute and 40 second trailer that Will has lost his will to live, and Louisa makes it her mission to change his outlook.

Will feels that not only is he paralyzed form the neck down, but his spirit is broken, too. After a failed suicide attempt, he promises his parents "six months," after which he intends to end his life at Dignitas, a clinic in Switzerland facilitating "death with dignity" and assisted suicide.

The characters in Me Before You are fictional, but Dignitas is a real place, and as you can imagine, its existence is controversial. The fact that Sam's character Will is even considering death to be a better option than life as a quadriplegic has offended some disability activists.

Emily Ladau, a self-described "physically disabled woman who uses a wheelchair and believes all lives have value," wrote a piece for Salon about her grievances with Me Before You. "The entire premise rests on the belief that life with a disability is not worth living," she noted. "In spite of each of the characters in Will's life trying to persuade him otherwise, the fact remains that Moyes imagines a world in which disability is synonymous with misery and assisted suicide is the only solution."

Me Before You


"The book overflows with dehumanizing stereotypes about disability, from implications that disabled people are things no more active than houseplants, to assumptions that disability is a fate worse than death," writes Ms. Ladau. "Based on previews, it seems the movie will be just the same."

She isn't the only one drawing criticism along these lines. Dominick Evans wrote a piece for Storify asserting that Me Before You perpetuates a number of negative stereotypes about individuals with disabilities. He also pulled together several tweets from a Me Before You Q&A with the movie's stars. Without going into too many spoilers or specifics, these users asked if the actors felt the film undervalued the lives of disabled people.

On the flip side, Me Before You has garnered praise from disability activists as well. "The Christopher Reeve Foundation reached out to me and has been extremely supportive of Me Before You," the book's author, who also wrote the screenplay for the film, told Woman Around Town back in 2013. And The Christopher Reeve Foundation indeed lists Ms. Moyes' book on its Pinterest board of "Books We Love."

As for Ms. Moyes' feelings on assisted suicide outside of Me Before You? "I didn't have an opinion and to some extent I still don't," she told Woman Around Town. "I'd like to think that if it happened to me I could be graceful about it and find a new purpose, like Christopher Reeve, but I'm also conscious that I could end up horribly bitter....I think the one thing I do believe is that we shouldn't judge someone else if we haven't stood in their shoes."

Me Before You is in theaters June 3.

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