I was not even sure I was even going to discuss this film, because I had not seen it or even read the book it is based on. But I felt it was important to express my thoughts due to the recent attention it has been getting on the internet lately. Before I go any further I realize that some who read this will disagree with what I have to say, but I feel that this debate is important because awareness is better than ignorance even if it seems easier.
First a little background; I saw trailers for Me Before You a few months ago back in 2015 and at that time I thought that it was would be a nice romantic film that tackles what it is like coming to terms with the loss of mobility and how unconditional love triumphs. When I discovered it was based off of a book, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to read the summary on Wikipedia. When I read how it ended, it broke my heart. I am not kidding when I say this.
After reading the summary, I debated whether or not I go to see the movie. I thought if I watched it in context maybe it would at the very least help me to understand it better. But the more I thought about it and the more I researched a number of disabled individuals’ views of the book as well as the movie, the more I realized that going to the theaters would only support the misguided belief that a disabled life is not worth living.
Also it appears I am not alone in this view, for a lot of people especially those with disabilities criticize the film for implying that who suffer from a loss of mobility can never live life to the fullest. While there are those who defend that physician-assisted is a private decision by calling it “death with dignity,” Breakpoint commentator John Stonestreet explains,
An individual’s decision to commit suicide in the midst of an illness or disability – whether that individual is real or on the silver screen – shapes how our culture treats others in the same situation.
Despite the romanticization of physician-assisted suicide in Me Before You, its marketing campaign proclaims #LiveBoldly to which one Twitter user with a disability retorted “Do you really want us to #LiveBoldly, or…just…#DieQuickly?”
Franceso Clark whose book Walking Papers chronicles his life after suffering an accident as young man that left him paralyzed, criticizes the film especially since they referred to his book without his knowledge,
I was never asked if my book could be included in the movie, nor was I ever told that it would be included…While I understand that this movie is based on a work of fiction, my book – and my life – is not.
I’ve worked tirelessly to show people that being quadriplegic isn’t the end of your life, it’s another beginning…While I am by no means taking a stance on the issue of assisted suicide, I feel compelled to express that I am angry to be unwittingly associated with a storyline that suggests the only option for those who sustain injuries like me is death.
Life for Francesco Clark has not been easy, but he chose to move forward and is making strides to regain some of his mobility back, all the while running his skincare company Clark Botanicals.
In the movie and the book, the quadriplegic character Will says to his love interest and main character Lou, “I don’t want you to miss all things someone else can give you.” However by taking his own life he in essence took away what she wanted most…himself.
This is in complete contrast to Christian author and radio host, Joni Eareckson Tada who herself is a quadriplegic and a married woman. In her statement she released addressing the movie she said,
As a quadriplegic who’s been married for nearly 34 years, I can say for certain that my husband and I have a deep and satisfying relationship, mostly because of – not in spite of my severe disability. It teaches us both patience and self-sacrifice; endurance, respect and joy, even when – especially when – times are hard. The Bible says God’s power shows up best in weakness, so any marriage that has a disability can potentially be a powerful blessing to both spouses.
The difference between Will and Joni is that despite the difficulties Joni’s strength lies with God.
Instead of reading or watching Me Before You, I recommend you read instead Joni: An Unforgettable Story (1976) or watch the movie Joni (1979) if you want to see the true story about her struggle with her lifelong disability and how she started down the path of living a fulfilled life in the midst of it.
“‘Me Before You’ People with Disabilities Aren’t Better Off Dead” by Jon Stonestreet
“Quadriplegic author ‘angry to be associated’ with Me Before You” by Henry Barnes
“Joni’s Statement on the Glamorization of Physician-Assisted Suicide in the New Film Me Before You” by Joni Eareckson Tada