Gwen Reyes // Film Critic
Summer is officially here which means those of us who like to avoid the sun, the heat, and prolonged face-to-face time with humans have just a few indoor options to choose from. My favorite is of course going to the movies, but the sheer amount of films to pick escalates as the temperature rises. It’s often too hard to decide which is the best, but don’t worry, narrowing down your Friday-Sunday activities is easy when you look beyond the big named blockbusters and settle in for an indie or more intimate story.
Jojo Moyers is beloved for her compelling novels about woman finding themselves through the people they love. Her first adaptation, ME BEFORE YOU, stars Emilia Clarke as Lou Clark, a listless young woman whose life ambitions are few, and Sam Claflin as Will Traynor, a snarky quadriplegic with a meddling mother. After losing her job at a local bakery, Lou becomes one of Will’s caretaker and is entrusted with lifting his spirits and convincing him to reconsider assisted suicide. It’s a tear-stained journey, but one sprinkled with heartfelt comedy.
ME BEFORE YOU is romantic, sweet, but not as tear-inducing as I had expected. The book was great, and the movie hits all the same notes (thanks entirely to author Moyers, who penned the script) as the source material. It’s entirely predictable, but fans of weepy, tragic romances will be pleased with the film’s delicate hand and playful comedy that balances out the emotional punches. And there is no denying that Clarke’s bright smile steals every scene.
Maggie (Greta Gerwig) wants a baby, but she doesn’t have a partner to knock her up, so rather than wait for the right guy to come along she takes her fertility into her own hands and finds the right donor instead. She is young, successful, and hungry for mommyhood; she’s got a plan and nothing will stop her. That is until she falls in love with the wrong man, a married professor at her school (Ethan Hawke) who latches on to Maggie when his wife just cannot give him what he needs. Now Maggie is in love and pregnant, all her dreams are coming true.
But dreams often turn to nightmares, especially when you wake up one day and realize everything you thought you wanted is not at all what you need. Maggie knows she and John (Hawke) are ill-suited for one another, but rather than break up with him in cold blood, she instead enlists his ex-wife Georgette (Julianne Moore) to take him back.
Normally cheating storylines make my skin crawl, but there was just something so endearing about MAGGIE’S PLAN and Maggie’s determination to right the wrongs she created. Gerwig gives another impressive and charming performance as the bumbly Maggie. She truly is the queen of indie comedies, and the life she adds to Maggie makes her as relatable as any sister. It is impossible not to smile when Gerwig beams right into the camera, even when she is starting an affair and ending a marriage.