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‘Me Before You’ Faces Criticism From Disability Rights Groups

BY DANIEL GAITAN | daniel@lifemattersmedia.org

Some disability rights advocates are upset with Me Before You for its depiction of assisted suicide.

The drama, which opens in the U.S. this week, is an adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ popular novel of the same name.

It focuses on Louisa (Emilia Clarke), a vivacious young woman who after losing her job at a local cafe becomes a caregiver for Will (Sam Claflin), a wealthy 31-year-old man who became a quadriplegic in an accident two years earlier.

Will, paralyzed form the neck down, no longer wishes to live and promises his parents only “six months,” after which he plans to end his life at Dignitas, a clinic in Switzerland that facilities so-called “Death with Dignity.” His plan is complicated when he falls in love with Louisa.

On Rotten Tomatoes, a website aggregating mainstream film reviews, Me Before You has a rating of 50 percent based on eight reviews (with an average rating of 6.9/10). On Metacritic the film has a score of 49 out of 100, based on six critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews.”

Disability Advocates Upset

Emily Ladau, a disability rights activist, published her concerns in Salon. 

“The entire premise rests on the belief that life with a disability is not worth living,” she writes. “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.”

Dominick Evans, a media and entertainment advocate for the Center for Disability Rights in New York, is troubled by the film’s tone.

“It supports a common misconception that it is better to be dead than disabled,” Evans wrote in a blog post which has been viewed thousands of times. “The film is also being passed off as a romantic dramedy, when there is nothing romantic about a depressed disabled man telling a woman love is not enough.”

However, Clark told the U.K.’s Metro that the film offers “one point of view” taken from Moyes’ novel.

Director Thea Shamrock called her film “life-affirming.”

“Within that is one man who has a choice to make, and he makes his own individual choice, and that’s another thing that I think is incredibly important for everyone, remember – that we have all earned the right to have our own choice.”