Tonight, Tywana and I sit down to watch a movie. As usual, she’s not thrilled about any of the movies I want to see (and I tend to want to watch the free ones). She wants to see “Me Before You” a chick flick with Emilia Clark (Daenerys from Game of Thrones). OK… a chick flick it is. Quick synopsis. It’s a movie about a girl who falls for a guy who is wheelchair bound and them dealing with the fact he is never going to get back to the life he once had. I hate chick flicks. I really enjoyed this movie, though.
I am going to reveal the entire plot of the movie. Stop now if you don’t want to know. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this movie at all. I figured I’d spend most of the time it was on checking Facebook. I was wrong.
Will Traynor is a rugged, handsome, uber-rich banker in his early 30s. He’s in the prime of his life, with a gorgeous girlfriend, an amazing job, more money than God, and he travels the world surfing, sailing, climbing, doing all of the amazing things we would do if we had his looks, his money, and his skills. One day he is struck by a motorcycle and paralyzed from the neck down. He can use his hands just well enough to operate his wheelchair. That’s it.
Louisa Clark is in her mid-20s. She has never been anywhere or done anything. She lives in England with her parents and her sister. Her father is unemployed. So, the family pitches in as much as they can. One day in her late teens her sister challenges her to find a job within 24 hours. Louisa finds a job at a local cafe. Six years later, she is still in the same job. This summarizes Louisa’s sense of adventure. She has had the same boyfriend for seven years. She is cute but quirky. She dresses like Sue from The Middle, in bright colors with mixed patterns- very childlike. She has a sunny disposition. Nothing gets her down. One day she is laid off from the cafe. So, she is looking for a new job. She applies for the job of Will’s caretaker even though she has absolutely no experience. No one has been able to hold this job. It pays well. It’s a six-month contract, but we don’t know why. She goes for the interview which is a disaster, but she gets the job anyway.
In typical rom-com fashion. We know Louisa and Will are going to hate each other at first. He is mean to her. He is mad at the world. He does not want to live this life. If he’s going to be miserable, he is going to make everyone around him miserable. He lives at his parents’ estate in a stable that’s been converted into an apartment with everything he can possibly need. Louisa is told quickly that she is not there to attend to his physical needs. There is a trainer/nurse for that. Basically, her job is to keep Will company.
Fast forward and she and Will are growing on each other (wow, didn’t see that coming). One day she overhears his parents arguing. A letter has come from a hospice in Switzerland where euthanasia is legal. It’s revealed that Will told them that in six months he was going to end his life. This is why they hired Louisa, in the hopes a cute perky girl could get him to change his mind. And that is the reason for the six-month contract. He had pushed away his girlfriend at the time of the accident. She ended up engaged to a good friend of his.
Louisa decides that if she can just show Will enough adventure, he will realize how wonderful life is. She arranges to go to the horse races, concerts and even a trip to Tahiti. She is loving it. Will is loving it. Then, she tells Will she knows about his plans. She admits she has been doing all of this to try to convince him to live. She has fallen in love with him and is ready to ditch her fiance for him. Will explains to her about his life before her. Thus, the title, “Me Before You”. She didn’t know Will before the accident. His life, as it is now, might seem OK to her, but it’s torture for him. Every day he wakes up and wishes the day was already over. In his dreams, he is able-bodied again only to wake up trapped in a body he can’t control. He wants to be able to make love to Louisa, but he cannot. They speak of going to Paris. She says he should take her, but he does not want to go to Paris. He’s been there. He has wonderful memories of Paris. He doesn’t want to ruin those memories by going back in a wheelchair, having to deal with the stares or the lack of attention from the ladies he used to get. Nothing is the same for him. He just wants it over. His parents want Will to live. Louisa wants him to live. Everyone is saying any life is better than death, but Will doesn’t agree.
This is the point where we would expect Louisa to talk Will out of going through with his plans and they live happily ever after. That doesn’t happen. The six months is up. Will goes to the hospice where he dies surrounded by Louisa and his parents and he leaves her enough money to start a life for herself in Paris.
As I watched the movie, I could so identify with Will. There are things I don’t want to do again, places I don’t want to go because when I was there before things were just so different that being there now is a painful reminder of what I don’t have anymore. I will never go back to Disney World. It was a magical week for our family the time we went. I have no desire to go back. This week is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. This will be our second Thanksgiving where Shayna isn’t eating with us. Last year we stayed home. This year we are going to Tywana’s brother’s house. Her sister and her boys will be there. Kayla will be with us. Those kids adored Shayna. Being there without her will be hard for all of us, I’m sure. I can’t avoid the holidays, but if I could, I’d turn them all off. They will never be the same.
Will’s body was broken after the accident. His injuries were visible. Anyone could see that he could not walk or feed himself. What they couldn’t see was the constant pain he was in. The trainer at one point is discussing his condition with Louisa. Will was in the hospital with pneumonia. Louisa asked about Will getting better, as in getting out of the wheelchair. She thought everyone eventually got better. The trainer explained there is no coming back from the type of injury Will had. “What about all of that therapy you do with him?” she asked. The therapy was simply to keep his muscles from atrophying, to keep him stable. There was no recovering. He also explained to her that Will’s life was much tougher than she realized. Because Will liked her, he hid his pain when she was around. She didn’t hear how he sometimes screamed in pain when he knew she couldn’t hear.
This is how grief feels, it’s a permanent injury that there is no coming back from. The therapy I do for myself isn’t about recovering. There is no coming back from the loss of Shayna. The therapy is to keep from getting worse. My injuries aren’t apparent to the world. For the most part, I keep the pain inside. But, it’s there. It’s daily and it’s constant.
I thought the movie made an excellent point about quality of life. Some would say that Will was young and had a lot of life in front of him. No matter how bad he thought his life was, he should give it a chance. Louisa loved him and even though they couldn’t have had the kind of life he would have chosen, they could have had a “good” life. But, Will was in and out of the hospital with pneumonia and he knew how much he cherished his life before. Every day was a mockery of that life to him. He had no chance of recovering and it was likely that pneumonia was going to kill him soon and God only knew how much suffering would be involved. He chose to go out on his terms. As he was there in hospice, saying his goodbyes and looking out of the window, I could picture his soul flying free, right after he took his last breath.
Here is where my parallel with Will ends. Will didn’t have children or a wife to live for. While Louisa loved him, he had not committed to her. Will was unencumbered and was able to make a free choice. I respect his choice. I am in a completely different situation. I will keep getting up each day, making it the best I can for me and for Tywana and for Kayla.