Me Before You: Book & Film Review

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Title: Me Before You

Author: Jojo Moyes

Published by: The Penguin Group

Genres: Adult, Romance, Realistic Fiction

In-Series/Stand Alone: In series, followed by the sequel titled “After You”

Rating: ★★★★★

Intro: 

“The thing about being catapulted into a whole new life — or at least, shoved up so hard against someone else’s life that you might as well have your face pressed against their window — is that it forces you to rethink your idea of who you are.” (p. 58)

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life — steady boyfriend, close family — who has barely been farther afield than her tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life — big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel — and he is not interested in exploring a new one.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy — but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, Lou sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common — a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart? 

My Review: 

As an avid reader, going on a reading hiatus that feels a million years long by the time it’s over is exhausting. For the last couple of months, I’ve been so distracted with college applications and final exams that I’ve barely glanced at the bookshelf sitting in the corner of my room, housing novels that haven’t been so much as touched since they arrived in a big brown box in the mail. But now that it’s January (I still can’t believe it’s 2017) and my workload seems to have come to a standstill, I’ve got time on my hands to do what I love most in the world: read. I was wary about choosing the wrong book to start off with, in case it led to longer periods of detachment from reading; but Me Before You destroyed any doubts I had the moment I opened its bright red cover.

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The story begins with Louisa Clark, an average twenty-six-year-old British woman who lost her job at The Buttered Bun after its owner decided to shut the place down. For the six years that she worked there, she grew comfortable to the constant chatter with the cafe’s regulars and the familiar routine of making tea and watching people come in and out of its doors. Desperately in need of a new job, especially because her parents and sister relied on her salary, she finally set out to become a temporary caregiver for wheelchair-ridden Will Traynor.

Paralyzed from the neck down and unable to even feed himself, Will’s previous life as a major corporate player who bought and sold companies and climbed mountains and explored the ends of the world in his spare time — was irreversibly over. This led him to believe that his new life, spent entirely in the care of others — was worthless. Louisa, with her bright and bubbly personality and funny mismatched clothes, is the polar opposite of her employer, who is sarcastic and angry and grim. At first, they resent one another for these differences, but with time begin to enjoy each other’s company. Each for the other’s sake, Louisa and Will begin to push beyond their comfort zones and in turn, change each other in ways that neither could have anticipated.

This book utterly and completely encompassed me — it was like receiving a never-ending hug. I related to Louisa in a way I hadn’t been able to relate to a character in a very long time — she was an ordinary girl living an ordinary life, happy in her monotonous routine of home-to-work-work-to-home. She led herself to believe that this was it for her; she was not “built” for the adventures outside her little town. And she was accustomed to always putting herself last — focusing entirely on the needs of others, not realizing that she deserved that same kind of love in return. Her gradual change as she broke free of these shackles that confined her to her ordinary life was so inspiring — I felt as though I was growing with her, my perspective shifting as she too began to realize that life had so much more to offer, and all she had to do was be willing to delve into her potential and see what would come of it.

If I had to choose only one thing I love about Jojo Moyes’ writing, it would have to be her amazing ability to build realistic dynamics between her characters. The relationship between Louisa and her sister Treena stood out as one of these — one moment, they were at each other’s throats and the next they had their feet propped up against the wall, lying side by side and bonding. There was Will’s mother, the stiff and worried Camilla, who Louisa was intimidated by beyond belief but also understood and empathized with, in a sense. There were Will’s interactions with his colleagues and friends that he’d known before his accident, and his concealed hurt and frustration at how their lives had continued while his seemed to remain frozen in place. And of course, Will and Lou, who made this book what it ultimately was meant to be: a love story. There’s a conversation between them that sticks out most to me, where Louisa mentions how if Will’s accident had never happened and he’d been the man he was before, he’d never have thrown a second glance in her direction. She would’ve been “invisible” to him, just another stranger in the crowd. It made me really think about all the moments in my life I’ve wished never happened — but if they hadn’t, would the people I have in my life today still be here? Would I even have met them in the first place?

Me Before You is real, just like this life we’re living is real, whether we like it or not. It’s not a book about “opposites attract” and how they fall in love within the first 100 pages — it’s a gradual but beautiful buildup toward a heartbreaking but truthful reality. This novel ultimately left me inspired to push myself — to never settle. To not just survive, but live boldly. Just live.

 

*ME BEFORE YOU: MOVIE REVIEW, W/OUT SPOILERS*

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Starring: Emilia Clarke as Louisa Clark and Sam Claflin as William Traynor 

Release Date: May 23, 2016 (USA)

Directed by: Thea Sharrock

Based on: The novel of the same name

Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, New Line Cinema

Running Time: 1h 50m

Rating: PG-13: Contains thematic elements and some suggestive material.

My Review: 

7.5/10 STARS. 

I had seen the trailer for this film in 2016, around the time it was first released and meant to read the book before it came out in May, but never got around to it. Nonetheless, I was excited — Emilia Clarke was already one of my favorite actresses (Game of Thrones fans, can we have a moment to appreciate how amazing Daenerys Targaryen is?) and I adored Sam Claflin as Finnick in The Hunger Games and as Alex in Love Rosie.

I decided to see the movie immediately after finishing the book, and I was amazed at how much of the dialogue from the book was translated onto the script. I still had the novel fresh in my mind, and the movie did not disappoint in the sense that it was an accurate portrayal of the characters and the story itself. Although it did lack in some storylines (which I won’t delve into because spoilers!!) it managed to capture the same magic and chemistry between our two main characters that I’d felt when I was reading.

Unfortunately, the movie failed to dig deeper into the relationships between all the characters, which was what I’d loved most about this story in the first place. It seemed a bit rushed, too fast-paced for my liking — hence the 7.5/10 stars. Some of the filler scenes were unnecessary; and could’ve replaced with more bonding between the characters so that the audience got a true sense of their personalities.

All in all though, it was a beautifully made film with excellent taste in music — whoever chose Ed Sheeran to be on the playlist is my hero. The scenery corresponded so well with the gradual change of the mood, and Louisa’s strange and quirky clothes were definitely something to marvel at.

I’d highly recommend reading the book first if you want to get a full-fledged feel of the story. However, the movie on its own is a cute, heartwarming time-pass for a cozy night in with the people you love.

 

Favorite Quotes From The Novel:

“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”

~

“Some mistakes… Just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you. You, Clark, have the choice not to let that happen.”

~

“Do you know how hard it is to say nothing? When every atom of you strains to do the opposite?” 

~

“You cut yourself off from all sorts of experiences because you tell yourself you are ‘not that sort of person’.”
“But, I’m not.”
“How do you know? You’ve done nothing, been nowhere. How do you have the faintest idea what kind of person you are?”

~

“I hadn’t realized that music could unlock things in you, could transport you to somewhere even the composer hadn’t predicted. It left an imprint in the air around you, as if you carried its remnants with you when you went.”

~

“All I can say is that you make me… you make me into someone I couldn’t even imagine. You make me happy, even when you’re awful. I would rather be with you – even the you that you seem to think is diminished – than with anyone else in the world.”

~

“I will never, ever regret the things I’ve done. Because most days, all you have are places in your memory that you can go to.”

 

*DISCLAIMER* Please try to refrain from mentioning any spoilers in the comments section. If you’d like to talk about the film in depth, feel free to contact me 😊

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II – Review & Reflection

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Title: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II

Previous Installment: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I

Starring: Jennifer LawrenceJosh HutchersonLiam Hemsworth

Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Thriller, Science-Fiction

Release date: November 20, 2015 (USA)

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Based on: “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins

Distributed by: Lionsgate

Running Time: 137 minutes

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and for some thematic material)

For those of you who have not seen the movie yet, the first part of this review will be non-spoilery — just a basic introduction as to what the movie is about, and my overall thoughts on whether or not you should see it and why. However, I will be going in depth for those of you who have seen the film, so please do stick around if you’re interested.

Film Synopsis: 

With the nation of Panem in a full scale war, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) confronts President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the final showdown. Teamed with a group of her closest friends -– including Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Finnick (Sam Claflin) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) -– Katniss goes off on a mission with the unit from District 13 as they risk their lives to liberate the citizens of Panem, and stage an assassination attempt on President Snow who has become increasingly obsessed with destroying her. The mortal traps, enemies, and moral choices that await Katniss will challenge her more than any arena she faced in The Hunger Games.

Brief Review: 

★★★★★

This movie was a perfect, fitting conclusion to what has been an incredible series. Jennifer Lawrence, once again, was mind-blowing in her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen — so good that it’s nearly impossible to imagine another actress playing the part. (Kinda gives you Harry Potter/Daniel Radcliffe vibes, doesn’t it?) I think it’s to her credit that the films have gained so much well-deserved attention and popularity over the years. Her commitment to her character and to the story is blatantly obvious, and that’s part of what makes all these movies so special.

I will be honest here — because this is an honest review — the movie starts off with more of a whimper than a bang. I don’t mean that in a negative way, though. The gradual build up is what made this film so captivating — it had me squirming in my seat waiting to see what was to come.

This movie was heavy-weight, far more intense than I anticipated, but with good reason. I knew going in that Mockingjay Part II would be far more subdued action-wise, because this final conclusion is essentially about Katniss finding her inner self and truly becoming the Mockingjay the people of Panem see her as — a beacon, a light in a sea of darkness. This movie, unlike the other ones I feel, really shed light on what the citizens of Panem had to endure. It portrayed their struggle and their desperation for a new and better life in a heart wrenching, yet spot on manner.

Whether you’re watching it as a fan of the books or of the films, I think this movie will speak to everyone. It’ll leave you pondering upon some very important concepts, and you’ll find it haunting how some things can be so easily applied to our society in this day and age. So, do I recommend it? Yes. It’s definitely worth watching. I should warn you though — since the tone of the entire film is very dark and emotional, think twice before watching it with someone, who’s perhaps, expecting the opposite going in.

When you’ve seen it, feel free to come back here and discuss with us!

*WARNING* Starting here, this review will get spoilery, so if you haven’t seen the film I’d highly recommend reading this later. If you’re going to discuss the film in the comments, put a spoiler warning so as not to spoil those who haven’t seen the film yet 🙂 

All right. Wow. There are so many things to talk about, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve only seen the movie once so far, so my memory is a little hazy, but I’ll try my best to include everything I can remember. I should probably say this first though — I am so glad that Francis Lawrence paid attention to the smallest of details. It’s because of that dedication to the fans and to the books that so many of us love these films so much.

  • Katniss. With her voice broken, her face pale and the heartbreak of losing Peeta to Snow’s manipulation evident in her blank eyes. It was at this moment that I knew this movie would break my heart. I was ready. I was prepared to fall in love and have my heart smashed to smithereens.
  • The small details. The attention to the details of the ruins was truly astonishing. The corpses of men, women and children strewn about like puzzle pieces, the dirt and rubble, the crumbling buildings — they all left me with a great sense of dread, and an aching feeling in my gut as I realized how devastating it must be to have your home destroyed in war.
  • Katniss’s anxiety. Her constant shaking and panic mixed with longing and heartbreak at every encounter with Peeta. Her desperation for him to come back to her. Jennifer Lawrence’s acting was phenomenal when it came to portraying the mental state of her character.
  • The meeting between Prim and Peeta. This had a good amount of impact, especially because you were able to see Peeta’s physical as well as mental state when he was talking to Prim. He mentioned his family, and how Katniss was not to be trusted, and it broke my heart that Snow had managed to completely damage and destroy every shred of innocence this sweet, sweet boy had left in him.  
  • The meeting between Katniss and Peeta. His hijacked state is absolutely horrifying. Heartbreaking. Gut wrenching. That line “all I know is that I would saved myself a lot of suffering if I’d just given that bread to the pig” — damn, did it cut deep. The horror and having her heart break was crystal clear on Katniss’s face, and reflected my own emotions upon hearing Peeta say that.
  • Johanna. Zero f***s given in every scene, as usual; and I adore her for it. Whether Katniss realized it or not, she needed that blunt and ambitious attitude in her life to fuel the fire raging inside her.
  • The dance between Prim and Katniss at Finnick and Annie’s wedding. I think the wedding scene in particular is very underrated — it symbolized a moment of peace and happiness in the midst of war and anguish. Watching it, my heart ached for Finnick and Annie, who were so lost in the others’ embrace, not a care in the world; with no idea that it would all be taken from them. And then we had Katniss, spinning around with her little sister, smiling for the first time in so long. And then the voices started to fade, the room became one huge blur, and it was just them. And Katniss stopped and scooped Prim into her arms — and that was such a beautiful moment between the two of them. The goodbye they would never get to have.
  • Finnick Odair? More like Finnick Odear. His death is the one death I will never, ever be able to accept or come to terms with. I remember reading his death scene in the book, and wanting to throw it at the wall because I was so upset. Finnick, the one character who deserves so much more recognition than he gets. He took care of an old woman in the arena out of the kindness of his heart and without asking for anything in return; he took care of his mentally-ill wife Annie; he took it upon himself to look after Peeta; and regardless of all of this he was used by the Capitol for his body. He was a character that grew on you, one that you eventually came to love and respect — who was nothing like you’d assumed, and who deserved so much more than what he got.
  • The Mockingjay. Katniss Everdeen is the perfect example of a reluctant hero. She never asked for any of this to happen to her — she went into the Hunger Games to protect Prim, knowing there was a very likely chance that she would die. Never would she have imagined she would become a symbol of hope for her people and part of a rebellion to take down the cruel dictator of Panem. As much as she wanted to help in this mission, it was obvious from the previous films how out-of-place she felt being such a big a part of it. Her main priority was always to protect her family and Peeta. She was too focused on them to think about anything else. Until this last and final chapter in this whirlwind of a series, when she really transformed from a broken and hollow girl to this strong female heroine that will inspire people young and old for generations to come. She truly molded into her role as the Mockingjay when she realized how much this nation needed her. She was tired of losing people, she was tired of being hurt and treated like scum, she was tired of playing Snow’s game. And so, The Girl on Fire grew wings. She began to fight. She put herself in danger to do so. She became selfless and courageous. What blows my mind is that Katniss is only seventeen. Seventeen. My age. And she has the power to move mountains.
  • The bombs. The bombing of the children, unfortunately, is what stands out most in my mind. The parachutes floating down, the hushed crowd of innocent children reaching for them. The unmistakeable ringing in the aftermath that signified something terrible had happened. The smoke and the ashes. All this happened in broad daylight, and the nature of the parachutes just added to the horror. I knew it was coming and still, I couldn’t stop shaking for at least 10 minutes after it had happened. And to imagine that this happens in real life, to real kids — it’s devastating.
  • The rebellion comes to an end. That scene with Katniss marching up to Coin and shooting her in the heart with an arrow was brilliant. And then leaving President Snow to be finished off by the people of Panem. Again, brilliant. It was such an iconic, historic moment and I think the whole audience in the movie theater was moved by it.
  • Prim and Buttercup. I really expected to cry the moment we found out Prim died, but I didn’t. Like Katniss, it didn’t really hit me and the tears didn’t flow until all of it was said and done and Katniss came home to an empty house with Buttercup, Prim’s cat, still there. I understood Katniss keeping her feelings bottled up. I understood her finally breaking down, realizing all that she had lost — realizing that she had lost the one thing that really, truly mattered to her. And in the end, despite everything, despite the fact that she didn’t really like Buttercup, she took that cat in her arms and cradled it. For Prim. To remember her by. To honor her memory.
  • “You love me. Real or not real?” “Real.” Does anything more need to be said? I think not. Just… spot on. Absolute perfection.
  • The epilogue. The atmosphere of the movie changed entirely. The sun was out, the colors vivid on the screen, and Katniss and Peeta with their children looked so different — older, mature, happy with an undertone of lingering, never ending sadness from all that they’d endured. It was a fresh start for them. Rebirth. A chance to finally, finally be at peace.
  • “There are much worse games to play.” The screen fades to black. The credits start rolling. And so do the tears. I had teared up quite a few times during the film and I had a lump in my throat, but I hadn’t really cried. Until it hit me that it was over. And it was like being at the Deathly Hallows Part II premiere all over again.  

I can’t believe how fast this film saga came and went — it seems like only yesterday I was waiting excitedly with my ticket at the movie theater before watching one of my favorite books, The Hunger Games, come to life on screen. It’s been an intense, heart wrenching, emotional, but truly fulfilling journey; and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. I love this fandom, and it will live on in my heart forever.

For old times’ sake, and as a last goodbye to one heck of a series, may the odds be ever in your favor. 

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The Theory of Everything: Review

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Title: The Theory of Everything

Starring: Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking 

Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance

Release date: September 7, 2014 (USA)

Directed by: James Marsh

Based on: “Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen” by Jane Hawking

Distributed by: Universal Pictures & Focus Features

Running Time: 123 minutes

Rating: PG-13: Contains thematic elements and some suggestive material.

Overview of the plot:

In the 1960s, Cambridge University student and future physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) falls in love with fellow collegian Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). At 21, Hawking learns that he has motor neuron disease. Despite this — and with Jane at his side — he begins an ambitious study of time, of which he has very little left, according to his doctor. He and Jane defy terrible odds and break new ground in the fields of medicine and science, achieving more than either could hope to imagine.

My Review:

10/10 STARS

The Theory of Everything begins in the early 1960’s, when Stephen Hawking is a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, where he meets Jane, also a student studying medieval Spanish poetry. Gawky, spectacled and stumbling, Hawking takes a great fall one fateful day and it changes his life forever. Soon after, he’s diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and told he has two years to live. He begins to bottle up his feelings and descends into an understandable state of misery and depression, until Jane shows up and insists that he snap out of it. The two fall in love, despite everything.

This film portrayed its central love story not as a soap-opera melodrama, but as a genuine relationship between two imperfect adults. It acknowledges that good times don’t always last, and they can come in fleeting moments and go just as fast. It honors the struggle of both Stephen and Jane — the fight and the will to live and to be loved.

I absolutely loved this movie. I honestly don’t understand why it isn’t more popular —  it deserves so much more recognition than it gets. Eddie Redmayne, as always, was brilliant. His acting skills are truly phenomenal, and his performance as Stephen Hawking did not cease to amaze me. The way he portrayed this character was so believable — the emotion he conveyed without speaking, with just his eyes and his body — wow. That takes skill, and Eddie has it.

Felicity Jones did not disappoint as Jane. She portrayed her flawelessly, and made for a beautiful and strong partner alongside Stephen (Eddie). This was a very well-written and well directed film, and I loved that it focused on the lives of Jane and Stephen — how they met, how they fell in love, and how that love conquered the deepest and darkest moments of their lives. Jane’s endless love and faith for Stephen was truly inspiring — it goes to show just how much the people you love are willing to endure for you — how much they are willing to sacrifice for your happiness.

By the end of the film, I was already crying. It leaves you moved by the story and the lessons taught through it, and makes you look at life on a much larger scale. It opens your eyes to so many different things — our morality, the power of love, the power of hate, the power of our own conscience. This film really is a masterpiece.

*Fun Facts (regarding the historical accuracy) 

The film takes various dramatic liberties with the history it portrays. Slate (magazine) wrote that “the Stephen played by Eddie Redmayne is far gentler and more sensitive” than suggested in Traveling to Infinity. They further noted that the character Brian, Hawking’s closest friend at Cambridge in the film, is not based on a real individual but rather a composite of several of his real-life friends. The film alters some of the details surrounding the beginning of Stephen and Jane’s relationship, including how they met, as well as the fact that Jane knew about Stephen’s disease before they started dating. Slate also comments that the film underplays Hawking’s stubbornness and refusal to accept outside assistance for his disorder.

*DISCLAIMER* Please try to refrain from mentioning any spoilers in the comments section. If you’d like to talk about the film in depth, feel free to contact me 🙂