Critics protest ‘Me Before You’ as a pro-euthanasia message

Printed from:

Warning: This article contains spoilers

BOSTON – This summer’s romance flick “Me Before You” has a dark twist that has some calling for its targeted audience to boycott the Warner Bros. film.

While the movie, rated PG-13, centers around the friendship and romance of Will Traynor, played by Sam Claflin, a wealthy Englishman suffering from a spinal cord injury, and Emilia Clarke as Lou Clark, his new, attractive and quirky caregiver, its theme turns much deeper as Lou discovers Will’s desire to end his life.

Throughout the film, which was released in U.S. theaters Friday, Lou strives to show Will that he can thrive in life after his tragic accident.

“What if it can make him change his mind?” she wonders.

But still, the flick has been received with protests from the disability community both in the U.K., where it began showing May 24, and in the U.S,. with protests scheduled in Boston during opening night showings. Critics say that the movie, which is based on a best-selling novel of the same name by Jojo Moyes, effectively promotes suicide and is “disturbing.”

One petition by CitizenGo has garnered 20,000 signatures to boycott the film.

John Kelly, an activist in Boston who is wheelchair bound from a spinal cord injury, has been vocal about his disgust over the story portrayed in the film, which he hasn’t seen though he has read Moyes’ novel. He’s concerned that the movie will actually prompt disabled people to end their lives.

“After a new injury, people are very vulnerable, because suddenly you become part of a marginalized group,” Kelly said in an interview Friday. And in terms of the film, “Only a disabled character could have their suicide presented as noble. Imagine if another character in the movie had killed themselves based on their own internalized depression.”

While he is not boycotting the film, Kelly added that he does find the fact that the film casts the self-inflicted death of a disabled person as a noble act, “disturbing.”

People happily cry over people like me killing ourselves,” he said. “Where are the films where he changes his mind and they live happily ever after?”

Claflin responded to a wave of criticism on Twitter:

Although cast as a romantic comedy that uses the tagline “Live Boldly,” many in the disabled community find the marketing phrase offensive – and for good reason. On social media, activists used the hashtags #MeBeforeEuthanasia #MeBeforeAbleism to protest what they see as the film’s message.

“One of the biggest concerns of the disability community is the message this movie sends to the 12,000 individuals who have new spinal cord injuries each year in the U.S. alone,” international anti-assisted suicide advocates Not Dead Yet said in a statement about the film, linking it to bills dealing with assisted suicide that are pending before many state legislatures.

But director Thea Sharrock said that she found the topic “timely.”

“I didn’t in any way want the film to pass judgment because I think that until you’ve been in those shoes yourself, it’s a very easy topic to pass judgment on but not to really know until you’ve experienced it,” she told MTV, the cable television network.

But in the film, Claflin’s character comes across as heroic or selfish, depending on your worldview. Brave, for wanting to choose his personal fulfillment and comfort, no matter the cost; or selfish, for seeking to leave those who love him. But ultimately, it’s the decision of the viewer to judge whether his course of action was the best one to take.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter @karabettis.