Secretly (not so now), I’m quite the chick-flick fan. And if you were to pigeon-hole this, then this is as about as close as you’re going to get. This sometimes bittersweet tale about the growing romance between a paraplegic young man and his pretty care assistant doesn’t immediately sound enticing, particularly if you haven’t read the book from which this effort was borne, but give it an airing and you won’t be disappointed by any means. Pitched as one of the best movies of the year, it’s a lofty claim and time will still tell, but nonetheless, the praise is not without warrant.
Jojo Moyes adapts her own novel here, which is a blessed relief. Sometimes a writers’ creative vision can be lost in translation from paper to screen, but there is no such problem here. Moyes has a very good understanding of her own characters and this has clearly been passed onto the very formidable and capable cast charged with making us all suitably bleary-eyed.
Louisa (Clarke) finds herself out of a job at the local café and with her family relying on her to bring in at least some kind of income, she takes a trip to the local Jobcentre to see what’s on offer. When they check, they find a vacancy for a carer for Will (Claflin) a young man of the town’s well-to-do, castle-owing family who ended up in a wheelchair after being on the receiving end of a careless motorcyclist a couple of years earlier.
And here the clichés start to arrive. Initially, their relationship is difficult, strained, painful even, but Lou is a good soul that doesn’t admit defeat too easily and Clarke’s portrayal of an always positive, if somewhat eclectic, local girl is totally magnetic and she literally glows on screen, the perfect foil for an audience that feel not only for her plight in a difficult and demanding new career, but for the life that Will, though no fault of his own, has been forced to endure.
And just as predictably, their relationship grows and he warms to her unavoidable spirit and questionable fashion sense. This never feels rushed or forced which may have become an issue when reducing Moyes’ book into less than a couple of hours, but as I mentioned, with the responsibility of adapting her own story, this never really becomes an issue. There are some obvious questions about the story, being that this is the most famous family in town and the fact that Lou had never heard or know about the injury from which Will suffered is unlikely., but this is no more than nit-picking really.
The performances, particularly from Clarke, are excellent and completely watchable. Claflin too is, as usual, very easy to sit through, but it is Clarke here that truly shines and she breezes through this as if borne to play it. Dance and McTeer as Will’s parents are equally solid and impressive, despite a reduced presence.
There is as much sadness as there is joy here, however, and that is handled with subtlety and good grace, which may bring you tears, as it threatened to do to me. In all, this is indeed a fine example of quality storytelling and sublime casting. Direction may be on the careful side of ‘safe’, but nonetheless appropriate, and the script, though scattered with the odd cliché, still feels fresh, honest and sometimes even a little raw.
Highly recommended. One of the better films you’ll see this summer.