SPOILERS: Why 'Me Before You' doesn't have a hidden agenda
WARNING: IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW 'ME BEFORE YOU' ENDS, STOP READING NOW.
The movie "Me Before You," based on the novel by author JoJo Moyes, may seem like just a simple love story at first glance. But there is a lot of controversy surrounding the film by people accusing it of glorifying assisted suicide.
As someone who has spent a lot of time raising anti-suicide awareness, I figured I should put in my two-cents about this movie's ending. And the truth is, I don't think it romanticizes assisted suicide at all or dehumanizes those with disabilities.
In the movie/book "Me Before You," the main character, Will Traynor, becomes a quadriplegic after a motorbike accident. And, despite the other characters telling him he shouldn't do it, he ultimately decides to end his life. While I won't pretend like I understand what it's like to have a physical disability, I do know what it's like to feel like suicide is the only way out.
I couldn't even imagine becoming a quadriplegic, and I have no idea what I would do in that situation, but I would like to think that I would persevere and find reasons to live. I believe this movie doesn't have an agenda promoting assisted suicide and never portrays it as right or wrong. It only shows that this is what the character decided to do and how this decision affected his loved ones. If anything, I think the devastation of the characters who cared about Will shows reasons why people with disabilities should choose to live. It shows, like one of my favorite quotes: "Suicide doesn't take away the pain, it gives it to someone else."
This Huffington Post article shares the opposite view. The writer accuses JoJo Moyes of rationalizing that "it is better to be dead than disabled." But, for me, the only critique I needed was by John Alexander Hall, a C-5/6 quadriplegic who commented on this article.
He said, "I get the criticisms, but for me, this book hit so close to home, scary. It was almost dead on for the experiences and feelings I had. Will is also in the first two years of his accident, which are the hardest. I've never seriously thought about suicide, but I know exactly how Will feels and wouldn't blame him at all for the choices he gets to make for himself. I'm just saying while people think this is unrealistic and shines a negative light on people with disabilities, this was one of the most realistic and even uplifting books for me and I'm in a very similar situation. Knowing that I do have a choice, and I chose to make the best of it, where he didn't makes me feel that much better about living it to the fullest. This book helped me understand myself better, and the people around me. You can say it's unrealistic, but for me (and being very similar to Will's situation), it was closer to real life than any other book I've ever read."
While I do not agree with any kind of suicide, this movie shows that, ultimately, assisted suicide does exist and, right or wrong, it was the character's choice. The movie humanizes Will and shows, despite his disability, he did make a huge impact in the lives of others. And, like anyone who loses his or her life to suicide, this did not make Will a bad person.
The only qualm I have is I wish Will would have gone to a psychiatrist. Plenty of times the character is shown visiting a medical doctor. Yes, his disability was physical, but losing your will to live -- that's mental. And I feel that maybe, just maybe, him seeing a psychiatrist or counselor would have helped him choose to live. I urge anyone who is contemplating suicide or knows someone who is to make sure to get professional help. For Michigan residents, call Common Ground's 24-hour hotline at 248-809-5550 for referrals. Nationally, call 1-800-273-8255.