Reel Caregiving: Glimpses of Caregiving – Me Before You

This movie reveals the beautiful and dark side of caregiving in its rawest form. It shows us how caregivers may have different opinions on what is right for the care recipient, but at the end of the day what truly matters is what the care recipient wants.

While Louisa Clark is the protagonist caregiver, there are other caregivers such as the professional caretaker, Nathan and William Traynor’s parents, Camilla, and Stephen Traynor.

It begins with William Traynor stepping out on what seemed to be an ordinary rainy day. He is wary about the weather and decides not to take his bike but suddenly and ironically, he is hit by a bike. Later, we see that William was an avid adventurer who loved the outdoors. The life he led before his accident made it difficult for him to acclimatize to his quadriplegia and took away his desire to live.

However, the arrival of a bubbly and warm-hearted Louisa Clark changes his life. She was recently unemployed when William’s mother Camilla Traynor hires her to provide ‘care and compassion for a disabled man’.

Louisa’s Caregiving Journey and its Impact on her

Louisa Clark’s experience is similar to that of a family caregiver. Initially, she doesn’t grasp the depth and complexity of the caregiving role she is getting involved into. She is perplexed by the nature of her duties and William’s cold behaviour towards her doesn’t help. She is visibly hurt when he asks her to be less chatty. He is cynical and doesn’t respond to her constant efforts.

‘Every time I speak, he looks at me like I’m stupid.’ – Louisa Clark to her sister

When she is at the verge of quitting, she realizes that she is bound to her job as she needs the money to support her family.

But things begin to change. She doesn’t give up and puts a cheerful face whenever she’s with him. He warms up to her and even begins to enjoy her company. She tends to his every need with affection- from fluffing up his pillows to feeding him. She isn’t an experienced professional, but she is eager to learn and help him. Louisa is delighted when Nathan tells her that she makes William smile which he had not done in a while.

Her joy is short-lived when she discovers that his condition will never improve. As Camilla Traynor said in the beginning of the movie, ‘He has good days and bad days’, so does Louisa. She overhears Camilla and Stephen talking about William’s suicide attempt in the past and how he wants to undertake assisted suicide. Stephen further mentions that Louisa is Camilla’s attempt to change William’s mind.

This comes to Louisa as a shock and a heavy responsibility to carry. She is ready to quit when her sister helps her see how she can be there for William and make the last months of his life meaningful. But Louisa interprets this differently and seeks to find ways to show him the good things life has to offer.

They cherish every second together from a classical Mozart concert to a trip to Mallorca. But nothing reignites his will to live. He loves her but he believes that he will always limit her and eventually become a burden. She is pained and disappointed; feeling like a complete failure.  He is just as sensitive towards her desires and needs as she has been with him. She comes around and realizes that she needs to be there for him when he dies.

Another thing to note is that while Louisa became a caregiver to William in the recent year, she has been taking care of her family and sacrificing her life for them for years.

William hires her father to give her family financial stability and make them less dependent on her.

‘It means that one day you go off and spread your wings without worrying about everyone else. Put yourself first, for once’. – William to Louisa

Impact of Caregiving on Camilla

While Camilla appears to have a cold exterior, she has clearly been in pain since William’s accident. She has hired several caregivers before Louisa who quit but she didn’t give up on her search. She is determined to find someone who can look after him and perhaps cheer him. The thought of her son dying is too painful for her to grasp and she tries her best to change his mind. She supports Louisa and is hopeful of her efforts to reignite William’s desire to live.

Impact of Caregiving on Nathan

Unlike Louisa whose caregiving role and duties were ambiguous, Nathan is an experienced caretaker with specific duties. He is fond of William and is more than someone who looks after his medical needs, he is a friend. He enjoys Louisa’s companionship and sees the impact she has on William. He has adjusted well to William’s needs.

Every caregiving journey is unique. This is a moving movie about love and caregiving that you must watch.

 

Review courtesy: Mahika Parmar

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