“Hey Clark,” he said.”Tell me something good.” I stared out of the window at the bright-blue Swiss sky and I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other. And I told him of the adventures they had, the places they had gone, and the things I had seen that I had never expected to. I conjured for him electric skies and iridescent seas and evenings full of laughter and silly jokes. I drew a world for him, a world far from a Swiss industrial estate, a world in which he was still somehow the person he had wanted to be. I drew the world he had created for me, full of wonder and possibility.
When I first laid eyes on Me Before You, it was sitting on the shelf in the CVS on Washington Street beside the periodicals. For years I had passed by the works of Jojo Moyes in libraries and bookstores alike (these were far more bonafide literary establishments than the neighborhood convenience store). I had always been drawn in by the bold, calligraphic typeface of her covers, calling out to me in bright red, hot pink, lime green and cerulean blue. On that day, I happened to notice the copy I would end up pouring over for the next week, adorned with the cheesy movie-poster cover featuring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin gazing longingly into each other’s eyes.
Best selling love stories inevitably get short changed just on the principle of what they are. When I finished the novel, I approached my boyfriend raving about its excellence and prodded him incessantly to read it. Like most incidents of this nature, he begrudgingly agreed. When our roommate David saw it sitting on the counter, he made a hasty judgement about its presumable femininity and berated Vick for even having cracked it open. Cases like these are textbook examples of “judging a book by its cover,” which I thoroughly frown upon.
Each book deserves a chance to preserve its literary street cred before it is laughed at for being mentioned in some tabloid’s list of hollywood rom-com Summer must-sees. True, it may be a heart-wrenching tear-jerker sporting two unlikely lovers who are (spoiler alert) tragically pried apart by the very same twist of fate that brings them together. But damn if it didn’t have me, a proud (you guessed it) literature major, tearing through it until the wee hours of the morning only to end up sobbing uncontrollably in the final pages.
On to the necessary discussion of the recently released motion picture adaptation. I will choose my words carefully here–don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into an angry, irrelevant rant about all the reasons why the book was better than the movie, although that statement is true. I will say that there was a certain montage scene during which I found the soundtrack to be extremely ill-fitting. Let’s just say that a punchy pop song lasting approximately ninety seconds isn’t the best way to convey the slow, complex build-up of Lou and Will’s relationship over a period of months. I feel that because of scenes like the this, the movie version rushes through, and consequently sacrifices, the audience’s ability to invest in their story. This is a result of Hollywood’s vicious cycle of convincing American audiences to eat up any love story they are fed, as if from a spoon.
Aside from the predictable dumbing down of the story, this was a satisfying rendition of one very dear to my heart. I think the biggest favor movies can do for books is to give the readers a picture of what the setting looks like in real life. Some prefer to maintain their own mental image of the books’ world as if it were sacred. For me, it’s often difficult to picture. My brain kind of jumbles up memories of similar places, puts it into context, and results in a strange and dreamlike interpretation of the setting. One central facet of Will and Lou’s surroundings is the medieval castle that characterizes their town. Seeing it on the big screen is very satisfying after attempting in vain to picture its grandeur while reading. I understand why many dislike the movie version of a beloved book–I feel that way about some of my most favorite novels (I would never want to see a movie of The Bell Jar) and of course there is always The Catcher in the Rye argument, with Salinger’s refusal to allow an alternate interpretation of the book in any form.
Still, I remain firm in my belief that the book doesn’t always have to stand alone. One of my favorite novels of all time, The Virgin Suicides, has a fantastic movie counterpart and soundtrack that actually enhance the overall experience of the story for me. I believe that books and their subsequent movies should be judged on a case by case basis. They are different genres after all, different mediums of expressing art. Pitting them against each other is futile; at the end of the day, you’re still comparing apples and oranges.
– Margeaux Sippell, Intern