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Me Before You director responds to uproar over ending

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Alex Bailey

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the book and film versions of Me Before You.

Me Before You ends with the same outcome as the film’s source novel by Jojo Moyes, who adapted the screenplay: Main character Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) decides to die by assisted suicide despite falling in love with his caregiver, Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke).

Is it the happy ending? No. Is it the easy ending? No way. Is it a controversial ending? According to many representatives of people with disabilities, yes. But since it’s also the ending of the bestselling novel, changing the denouement would have not only upset many fans of the book — it would have seemed like a cop out by MGM, Warner Bros., and its filmmakers.

“You can’t do it,” says the film’s director, Thea Sharrock, in an earlier interview. “Can you imagine it coming out now and we would be saying, ‘It’s exactly like the book. It’s just we have this whole new taking on the ending.'”

She adds, “This is a brave ending. It’s too easy to do it the other way. We could all tell that story tomorrow. But this way… this is the more interesting way.”

But “more interesting” has also resulted in an outcry from disability advocacy groups offended the main character would take his life rather than live as a quadriplegic.

“The upcoming release of the movie Me Before You presents a deeply troubling message to our society about people with disabilities,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “To the millions of people with significant disabilities currently leading fulfilling, rich lives, it posits that they are better off committing suicide.”

Sharrock, in an interview Tuesday on EW Radio, says she’s not surprised by the uproar and she was attracted to the material because “it’s an incredibly serious and important subject.”

“It’s interesting to me that the controversy has been much more so then what JoJo ever got for the book,” she adds. “And I guess that says a lot about movies and how out there they are in comparison to books.”

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Sharrock adds that the character’s choice was a personal one, and regardless of how people feel about it, she’s proud she’s created an old-fashioned shared experience during a time when technology is making us more and more isolated.

Despite the mixed reaction to the movie, the fact that people are out there talking about it and sharing it is an accomplishment to her.

“There is something wonderful about knowing that the person next to you is also bawling their eyes out and you’re sharing that with them,” says Sharrock. “I think that’s a hugely cathartic thing. That side of it, I’m really proud of.”