If you haven't read Me Before You, you've probably at least heard the hype — especially now that the Me Before You movie has hit theaters. The story of Will Traynor and Louisa Clark has touched the hearts of many readers, and Jojo Moyes heartbreaking story of love, loss, and finding your path has earned legions of fans. That being said, are there any differences between Me Before You the movie and the book? Let's find out.
I saw an early screening of Me Before You , which stars Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark and Sam Claflin as Will Traynor, follows the book closely — not a huge surprise, considering Jojo Moyes wrote the screenplay. The story remained much the same (spoilers ahead): Louisa (Lou) Clark, a charming, off-beat, and perpetually underachieving 26 year old, loses her job at a local bakery and takes up a position as a caretaker to Will Traynor, a 35-year-old thrill-seeker and successful businessman who is now paralyzed after a motorcycle accident left him with a spinal cord injury. Lou and Will begin a tense friendship that soon blossoms into genuine respect, understanding, and love. But Lou is shaken to her core when she discovers Will has given his mother an ultimatum: in six months, he plans to commit suicide with the help of a "die with dignity" organization in Switzerland. Lou, determined to keep Will alive, plans a series of adventures and vacations to reignite his passion for life.
1. There's No Georgina Traynor
Though Lou's loveable-but-slightly-judgmental sister, Treena, made it to the film, Will sister, Georgina, didn't get the on-screen treatment.
In the book, Georgina spills the beans to Lou about Will's intent to commit suicide. She, like her mother, is desperately unhappy and angry about Will's decision, but she, unlike her mother, expresses her sadness and fury by yelling at Will. She is his sister, after all.
As I left, I could hear Georgina Traynor's voice lifting inside the house. "Has it ever occurred to you, Will, that, believe it or not, this might not be just about you?"
Georgina's role wasn't really necessary to advancing the plot of the film, but I was disappointed to see her cut. But maybe that's just because I'm a sucker for brothers and sisters who fight like hell but love each other all the same.
2. Mr. Traynor's Affair Isn't Mentioned
In the book, Lou observes how Will's parents slip on a mask, never showing their true emotions around their son. His mother is stoic, and his father, though he acts cheerfully enough, is obviously unhappy. When Lou spots him in town with his mistress, a red-headed woman, she warily informs Will. He tells that that it isn't the first time, and brushes it off.
3. Camilla Traynor's Perspective Isn't Included
In the book, we're treated to perspectives from characters other than Louisa, including Treena, Lou's sister; Nathan, Will's nurse; and Camilla, Will's mother. Camilla's POV is particularly enlightening. Though she may appear cold and calculated on the outside, Camilla is a woman who feels very deeply.
A portion from her chapter:
It's just that the thing you never understand about being a mother, until you are one, is that it is not the grown man — the galumphing, unshaven, stinking, opinionated offspring — you see before you, with his parking tickets and unpolished shoes and complicated love life. You see all the people he has ever been all rolled up into one.
I looked at Will and I saw the baby I held in my arms, dewily besotted, unable to believe that I had created another human being. I saw the toddler, reaching for my hand, the schoolboy weeping tears or fury after being bullied by some other child. I saw the vulnerabilities, the love, the history. That's what he was asking me to extinguish — the small child as well as the man — all that love, all that history.
Camilla's inner turmoil is completely and utterly heartbreaking, but her perspective adds that much more depth to the novel, reminding readers that this is a story about more than just Lou and Will's romance.
4. The Broader 'Right To Die' Argument Isn't Addressed
In the book, Will's decision to commit assisted suicide is part of a broader social and political controversy sweeping the nation. In the weeks after Lou learns of Will's decision, she ponders several other "right to die" cases in the news:
May was a strange month. The newspapers and television were full of headlines about what they termed "the right to die." A woman suffering from a degenerative disease had asked that the law be clarified to protect her husband, should he accompany her to Dignitas when he suffering became too much. A young football player had committed suicide after persuading his parents to take him there. The police were involved. There was to be a debate in the House of Lords.
I watched the news reports and listened to the legal arguments from prolifers and esteemed moral philosophers, and didn't quite know where I stood on any of it. It all seemed weirdly unrelated to Will.
This is an issue that comes into play later, as well, when Lou joins a message board for people with spinal injuries. She asks users if they have any suggestions for ways she can convince Will to change his mind about living. Results are varied: some people offer her advice, and others criticize her for believing she can change his mind. One person asks her: "If this is the wrong life for your friend, shouldn't the question be: How do I help him to end it?"
The issue is a complicated one — one that Will's family and Lou's family and Lou struggle with until the end. Ultimately, they allow him to make his own decision, but the book certainly addresses the "right to die" argument from a variety of perspectives.
5. Louisa Doesn't Move In With Will
This detail wasn't absolutely essential to the plot, but it was the first time we got a real inkling that Will viewed Lou as more than his caretaker.
When family troubles force Lou to rethink her living situation, Will invites her to move into the spare bedroom in his annex. That doesn't go over well with her boyfriend, Patrick, who asks her to move in with him instead. Lou accepts Patrick's offer, much to Will's chagrin. Though Will never openly expresses his disappointment, he becomes detached. At one point, Nathan even asks Lou if they'd had an argument. Another time, Camilla pleads with Lou to postpone moving in with Patrick for Will's sake.
Louisa, ever-naive, wasn't able to pinpoint the root of Will's distress, but we readers knew better: He was jealous! He loved her! He wanted her near him! How adorable. Happily, she does eventually end up living with Will... after she breaks up with Patrick.
6. Patrick Doesn't Tip Off The News
Again, this story wasn't absolutely essential to the plot, but it did solidify my opinion that Patrick was absolutely not the right person for Lou. Up until this point, it was easy to sympathize with him: Yes, he was incredibly possessive, but he kind of had a right to be jealous since his girlfriend was falling in love with another man. And yes, he was a tad bit obsessed with working out, but you can't exactly blame a guy for having ambitions and living well, right?
Well, that sympathy went right out the window when we discovered that Patrick tipped off news reporters about Will Traynor's decision to proceed with an assisted suicide.
Lou — heartbroken and grieving the impending loss of Will — was then forced to deal with nosy, invasive reporters who called incessantly and stopped by her home unannounced. Seriously, Patrick? That's a great way to ensure your ex-girlfriend hates you forever.
7. Will And Lou Don't Get Tattoos
Unfortunately, Will and Lou's spontaneous decision to get tattoos didn't make it into the film. I like to think, however, that movie-Lou has a bumblebee tattoo that reminds her of Will wherever she goes.
8. The Sexual Assault Subplot Isn't Included
In the book, after Will and Lou explore the castle, he directs her to a maze on the castle's grounds. Lou, however, doesn't want to explore the maze — because, years earlier, she had been sexually assaulted by a group of men there.
She enters the maze anyway, and she quickly becomes overcome with memories from that night. She begins screaming and crying when she can't find her way out, and Will finds her, gently calms her, and holds her hand as he leads her out. Later, she tells him everything about that night:
By the time we finished talking the sky had grown dark, and there were fourteen messages on my mobile phone wondering where we were. Above us the sky had become endless and infinite.
"You don't need me to tell you it wasn't your fault," he said quietly.
I twisted the tissue in my hand. "Yes. Well. I still feel... responsible. I drank too much to show off. I was a terrible flirt. I was — "
"No. They were responsible."
Nobody had said those words aloud to me. Even Treena's look of sympathy had held some mute accusation. Well, if you will get drunk and silly with men you don't know...
His fingers squeezed mine. A faint movement, but there it was.
"Louisa. It wasn't your fault."
I cried then. Not sobbing, this time. The tears left me silently, and told me something else was leaving me. Guilt. Fear. A few other things I hadn't yet found words for. I leaned my head gently on his shoulder and he tilted his head until it rested against mine.
In an interview with Screenrant, Moyes and director Thea Sharrock addressed the missing scene:
The problem we had with it is [that] in the book it's almost a throwaway line. You read it and you kind of go, 'Whoa, did she just say what I think she said?' and you go back and you realize what she's telling you in quite opaque terms. There is no way to do that visually because the moment you go into the maze or you express anything about the horror of that evening, it becomes a much bigger and weightier thing and you can't do that quickly and be respectful to the topic.
This is a powerful scene, but one that I completely understand being cut from a two-hour romance.
Though the film does beautiful justice to Will and Lou's friendship and love, there's always going to be things the book just does better. Movies are just never as good at the whole inner-monologues-and-longing-glances thing, you know? My recommendation: see the movie, re-read the book, and maybe see the movie again. Just to compare, of course. Don't forget the tissues.
Images: YouTube/Warner Bros. (9)