Me Before You is facing an array of criticisms from anti-euthanasia campaigners who believe that the film did not give justice to its portrayal of disability.
At the U.K. premiere of the film adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ bestselling novel, several activists expressed their sentiments as cast members arrived on the red carpet. Emilia Clarke, the film’s lead actress, told the Guardian that it wasn’t the intention of Me Before You to take away the dignity of people with disabilities.
“I think that the movie is a Hollywood movie, but I think that what we are showing is something that we took a lot of care over, with Jojo being there as well, because she wrote the book first, so that’s the story that we were going off. We were very careful with how we wanted to present things. And we are showing a situation, we are not showing an opinion.”
Me Before You follows the relationship of quadriplegic Will and his carer, Lou. Will used to be a highly-admired banker who also had a thirst for adventures. He loved to travel but an accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. His hope starts to dwindle until a cheerful woman enters the picture.
Assisted suicide is a main theme in Me Before You. Dignitas, a Swiss clinic that facilitates “death with dignity,” is mentioned many times in the novel. While the characters in the novel are fictional, Dignitas is a real place that continues to face varied reactions.
Emily Ladau, who describes herself as a “physically disabled woman who uses a wheelchair and believes all lives have value,” aired her grievances via Salon.
“The book overflows with dehumanizing stereotypes about disability, from implications that disabled people are things no more active than houseplants, to assumptions that disability is a fate worse than death. Based on previews, it seems the movie will be just the same.”
For her, Me Before You suggests that “life with a disability is not worth living.” Director Thea Sharrock, on the other hand, emphasized that Me Before You only wanted to let people think about the real value of life. “I wanted to stick to the universal theme of the simple and yet wonderful way these people fall in love, while creating a space for people to think about what matters,” she said.
Some of the activists hail from Not Dead Yet – a group that condemned the bill which would have allowed doctors to help terminally ill patients end their lives. The bill was rejected. The group reportedly plans to stage a protest at the U.S. premiere of Me Before You.
Despite the seemingly abundance of protesters, Moyes said that several charities have praised her work. The Christopher Reeve Foundation was one of the groups that reached out to Moyes to support Me Before You.
The British author still does not have an opinion on assisted suicide. One thing she’s sure of is that people shouldn’t be quick to judge.
“There are no right answers. It’s a completely individual thing… I hope what the story does, whether it’s the book or film, is make people think twice before judging other people’s choices.”
Me Before You hits theater screens on June 3.
[Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]