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Me Before You a torpid tearjerker

Me Before You, the screen adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ best-selling novel (scripted by the author herself), is a high-toned, high-boned soap opera in the grand tradition of Nicholas Sparks. Just add British accents.

The film, which doesn’t so much push emotional buttons as punch them, stars Emilia Clarke (another “Game of Thrones” regular edging into big-screen stardom) as Louisa Clark, a simple English girl who’s the very picture of perk and pluckiness.

Despite having zero experience, she signs on as a part-time caregiver to Will Traynor (Sam Claflin), a neighbor whose zest for life and promising career as a financial hot-shot were derailed by a freak accident that left him quadriplegic, living nearby in the castle owned by his parents (Charles Dance and Janet McTeer).

Will is consumed by despair and selfpity, but it’s only a matter of time before Louisa’s short skirts, high heels, and cheerful spirit begins to melt that cynical reserve. And, naturally, it’s only a matter of time before their relationship progresses to a romantic one.

Louisa, whom Will observes late in the proceedings is completely unable to hide what she’s feeling, is certainly played that way in Clarke’s unsubtle performance.

Whether beaming with happiness or wide-eyed with worry, this talented actress is pushing too hard, trying to wring every drop out of the role, and hardly a moment passes without her flashing those pearly whites.

In contrast, Claflin (a Hunger Games veteran) cannot help but impress. Even though Will is restricted in mobility, Claflin nicely underplays the role, his good looks and sarcastic manner bringing to mind the young Rupert Everett. His is the film’s only character with any degree of depth.

For its intended audiences, Me Before You may well offer the good cry they crave, but never does it stray from the path of predictability. This is director Thea Sharrock’s feature debut, and although it looks nice, the film has an odd, slightly choppy structure. Some scenes seem too short, others seem completely extraneous. A plot development about assisted suicide lends the story some weight, and is handled with more delicacy than the rest of the film would indicate, but too often a sappy song montage commences and the film grinds to a halt.

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.

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