Memories Before Me Before You
“I’ve been standing in the back of the theater during screenings, waiting to see who’s sniffing,” best-selling author Jojo Moyes told the Los Angeles Times’ Amy Kaufman. “If it’s not 70% or above, I’m not pleased.” Moyes was speaking of the film adaptation of her popular romance novel Me Before You, which opens today in theaters nationwide. The tale of the burgeoning love between a rich young quadriplegic man (Sam Claflin of The Hunger Games) and his caretaker (Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones) is poised to target the tear ducts of moviegoers because it deals not just with the character-enlarging tropes of romantic attraction but also with the theme of personal choice with regard to euthanasia. It’s not new ground – Love Story, Dying Young, Million Dollar Baby (2004), Amour and other movies – have trod similar paths, but rather its the latest addition to the shadow-of-death subset of movies under the general heading of “Dreamy but Ill-Starred Movie Romances.” A prime example of Ill-Starred Love, not involving death but certainly capable, depending on personal tastes, of opening up the floodgates, is The Way We Were (1973), starring Barbra Streisand as an activist of forthright expression and Robert Redford as a golden boy/average studio screenwriter, whose love and marriage are regularly tested by her zealously leftist beliefs butting up against his roll-with-the-tide conformism. She desperately tries to make her love a transformative act; he tries to stay the course and build his burgeoning writing career during an era of political turmoil and anti-Communist conservatism. Like Me Before You, it deals with sizable social issues that blight the smooth course of the lovers’ relationship. But when push came to shove, the ending turns sad. And in Rodgers and Hart Glad to Be Unhappy fashion, the journey enthralls and affection endures, even as the physical union dissipates. Courtesy of director Sydney Pollack, screenwriter Arthur Laurents, the Marvin Hamlisch score and the rueful Hamlisch/Alan and Marilyn Bergman title tune, there is flint and fire as well as a tidal wave of tears. Forty-three years ago, there were likely no sniffle percentage measurements applied but the box-office returns and the enduring memories that followed ensured that The Way We Were would enter the pantheon of great screen romances. Time will tell if that’s the case for Me Before You. For those not headed for a good cry at the multiplex, The Way We Were is available on a beautiful Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray here: http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/26203/THE-WAY-WE-WERE-1973/.