Last night, I watched a movie released last summer called “Me Before You”. The movie dealt with the basic eventualities facing human beings: life and death. Without giving away the outcome of the movie, here is the basic premise of the movie based on the book by Jojo Moyes:
Will Traynor is struck by a motorcycle and becomes paralyzed from the neck down. Traynor is deeply depressed and in a great deal of physical pain and anguish afterwards. He was a very adventurous and daring man before this. Having gone through many caretakers who were not able to deal with the troubled man, his parents hire Lou Clark, a woman from a low-income London family who does not subscribe to the status quo and is her own woman. She doesn’t care how others view her at all.
After months of Traynor doing the same things he did with his other caretakers, eventually Clark is able to get Traynor to come out of his depression and smile. The two form a deep bond. Clark soon discovers her boyfriend is unable to deal with her passion for helping Traynor. Meanwhile, Clark discovers Traynor told his parents he wants to end his life at a Swiss clinic in six months as he no longer has the will to live with his condition. Clark makes it her mission in life to get Traynor to change his mind.
This is a story about love and sacrifice in its purest form. Both characters changed because of their interaction with each other. By the end of the story, they are not the same people. Traynor begins to experience life again through Clark’s eyes. Clark wrestles with what is best for Traynor: what she wants or what he wants.
This is a movie about a person with a disability. Many disability advocates spoke out against the movie. They felt what Traynor wanted to do was a cop-out and could give the wrong message to those afflicted with paralysis. Is it considered “death with dignity” if that death is not imminent? The movie talks a great deal about Traynor’s suffering and screams in the night, but does not show those moments of suffering. It does show incidents where Traynor suffers from high fevers and a hospitalization. The viewer is left with the impression Traynor suffers immensely from his disability. Choosing the moment of our death is a question of faith and belief. Many feel that is not our decision but that of God. Others feel it is murder. I don’t have the answers to those questions. But it got me thinking, about life and death. Do we embrace today or do the events of life determine who we are?
*Photo by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture – © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwin-Mayer Pictures Inc.