Obviously, you should not be reading this right now if you haven’t EITHER read the book OR watched the movie (and don’t want to be spoiled). I already posted a review of the book with no spoilers, but I really wanted to talk about the ending and how the book and the movie handled Will’s issues due to his disability differently (which made me like the movie less than the book).
Before I read the book, I knew that Will was going to end up ending his life. I’d read a review that said they were surprised he “went through with it.” (Really? That’s a spoiler, people! You need to mark it as such! Just because you don’t say what he went through with – it’s pretty obvious what you’re talking about in a book like this.) And the whole book, I was really torn about how I felt about that. After all, I don’t really condone suicide—I get that there are all sorts of reasons why people might want to end their lives, but I do feel like life is precious, even when it’s not the life we think we want.
But the book is interesting because I feel like it shows both sides of the issue so well. On the one hand, all of the people around Will are dead-set against him ending his life—they’re trying desperately to save him and to show him that life can be worth living. Lou talks to many people who affirm that life in a wheelchair can be just as fulfilling as one out of one. And none of the characters who love Will (Lou included) ever comes to the conclusion that what Will is doing is right, they merely realize that they can’t stop him and decide to support him in his final moments rather than abandon him. Really, what else could they do?
And then there’s Will himself: He’s obviously sad about the things he’s lost and miserable at the thought of a life in a wheelchair, but the issue in the book that makes me truly sympathize with Will and understand why he might not want to go on is his pain and sickness and the fact that the doctors say he can only expect those things to get progressively worse. For me, this is a game-changer. It’s one thing to adjust to a life not being able to do all of the things you love; it’s another to have to suffer through a life of constant pain and sickness with no end in sight. While I’m not necessarily a proponent of assisted suicide, I can understand it in these circumstances. I can certainly sympathize.
But this is where I felt the movie veered away from the book in a very important way: In the movie, Will’s pain and the spiraling nature of his illness are completely skimmed over—barely mentioned at all. In the movie, the entire focus of Will’s decision is based on the fact that he can’t live the life he wants to live. He can’t stand the fact that he’ll no longer be able to live his action-filled, daredevil lifestyle or go jet-setting off to Paris (and see women appreciating him). It’s all focused on the things he won’t be able to do.
This made me frustrated because there are plenty of circumstances in life where something happens that means that we don’t get to fulfill our dreams. Think of the athlete or dancer who trains single-mindedly for years and then sustains an injury that cuts their career tragically short; should that person give up on life completely because the thing that they’ve spent their life working toward is impossible? If we center our self-worth on specific abilities or jobs or circumstances, we’re bound to be disappointed at some point. Of course, someone in a wheelchair faces far more challenges than the average person (and I’m not disabled, so it might not be my place to judge), but that doesn’t make their life unworthy. Of course, it might make someone feel depressed and like giving up, but I would hope that the person would eventually find a way to not only accept their life but to thrive in it.
When the things Will can’t do are the focus of his decision, he seems far more selfish. And the fact that he tells Lou in the end of the movie that his time with her has been the best in his life seems almost degrading; while watching this scene, I found myself thinking, “Well, then, why isn’t it enough? Why can’t you have a life filled with different good things than you had before?” Will’s insistence that he’s sparing Lou from a life of taking care of him also seems insulting. After all, he’s changed her life in so many positive ways and made her see things differently. He’s given her a precious gift while in a wheelchair. Why does he assume that his limitations are such a burden that he has to spare Lou from them—and why is it implied that sparing her from those limitations is more humane than sparing her from losing him? I just can’t get on board with that message!
Now, when you add in Will’s pain and his spiraling illness (and probable eventual death), it changes things. You can see a bit more how Will might feel that he is sparing both himself and the people who love him extended pain. I still don’t know that I agree with Will’s decision, but I can understand it. The movie’s focus on Will’s limitations rather than his pain makes him a much less sympathetic character to me.
The movie also seemed to imply more acceptance of Will’s decision on Lou’s part in the end as well. Something about the final scene where Lou is in Paris and Will’s letter is being read was just off for me. She seemed almost too happy to move on or something. I don’t know. Did anyone else feel that way? I didn’t feel that when I read the book.
I should mention that I actually liked the movie overall—I thought the actors were well-suited to the character and the acting was excellent. And I thought that it was faithful to the book, except in the one (pretty critical, in my opinion) way.
I agree with your assessment of the movie vs the book.
I listened to the book before watching the movie, and I felt that UMPH of the book was lost in the movie.
Yeah, I just didn’t feel quite as connected to Will in the movie. I still enjoyed it, but the book was better!
I’ve read the book but haven’t seen the movie yet, even though I’ve been meaning to. I think that if the focus on the movie is on the limitations and him feeling like he’s a burden to Lou or something then that definitely would make me see him in a slightly less sympathetic light. The nature of his declining health in the book really does make what he does in the end understandable, even if you really, really wish he didn’t go through with it.
I’m definitely going or try and watch the movie soon then I can compare! Great post! 🙂
Exactly – I wasn’t happy about Will’s decision in the book, but I could kind of understand it. In the movie, it just felt selfish to me.
The other day, i had a brief conversation about this book with my daughter. Basically, we’re of the opposing opinions as to who was the more selfish: Will for putting his family through that, or Louisa (and Will’s family) for doing everything they can to dissuade Will. I think everyone will probably have differing opinions about Euthanasia but it all comes down to love. If you love the person enough to willingly end their life if only to end their suffering, and if you, as the person wanting to die love the people around you enough to end their heartache of seeing you deteriorate into a shadow of whom who once were.
Well, now I’m really curious which side of the argument you landed on. I felt like Will was more selfish for putting his family through his death, but that’s just me! I feel like his loved ones had to at least TRY to talk him out of it.
I read the book some time ago and recently watched the movie and I can honestly tell you that I enjoyed the movie so much more. Okay, maybe enjoy is not a right word considering what story we’re talking about, but you get it… I liked the movie more. I think that it’s because the characters were so much more likeable in the movie, and tbh those scenes that were cut out of the movie were not my favs in the book so this movie was a win for me.
However, my sister was pretty dissapointed in the movie.
Interesting. I do agree that I liked Lou in the movie, but I liked Will better in the book for the most part. Different strokes, right?
I haven’t read the book yet (GASP!) I know, I am dragging but I saw the movie this weekend (FINALLY!) and let me tell you that even without reading the book or reading the spoiler-filled reviews, I knew that Will was going to die in the end. I didn’t know the specifics, but I knew he would die.
The movie, I think, has more focus on the romantic relationship between Will and Lou. Not that it is a bad thing, only that it’s not as deep as I wanted. I didn’t cry at all. I ALMOST teared up, but really, this movie missed the whole mark.
I think there should have been more focus on the friendship part of their relationship AND the ultimate decision in the end. I felt that Lou was a little selfish in that she didn’t want to let go of Will. My thoughts would have been different had there been more focus on Will, his thoughts and feelings, and their friendship – not the romance bit. So yeah, I felt that they just skimmed through the story. Interestingly, Jojo Moyes wrote the script for the movie!
Now, I think I would want to read the book. AND SOON!
Oh, funny. You and I had the exact opposite reactions to the movie. I felt like Will was being selfish and you thought that Lou was. Not sure if the book would help you with that feeling, but I’ll be curious to see what you think when you read it!
Ahhh, yes, I definitely agree with you! This was my issue with the movie exactly. Will was portrayed as a playboy who now can’t have his perfect life anymore and he’s committing suicide because of it. And I just thought that was FAR off the mark. Like you said, the book shows both sides of the matter and Will’s illness is really well-portrayed, whereas the movie just skims over this. *sigh*
I was surprised by the fact that it was the author herself who wrote the script for the movie!
I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. I enjoyed the movie overall, but I found myself thinking that if I hadn’t already read the book and gone into it with a certain frame of mind (knowing about Will’s suffering), I would have been completely frustrated with Will throughout the movie and I wouldn’t have been okay with the ending. I’m surprised to know that Moyes wrote the script as well – I guess in order to make a movie you have to make cuts, but I wish Will’s pain and suffering hadn’t been cut quite so much!
I may or may not see the movie, probably won’t read it. I definitely think they should have kept it more integral in the movie that it was a lot more about the pain and suffering as to just not having the life he’d thought he would. Great review, even with the spoilers!! 🙂
Ha! I guess since you’re not planning on reading the book (and possibly not seeing the movie) you were allowed to read this post. 🙂 Now you know what to expect going in if you do end up seeing the movie, I guess!
I only watched the movie, since I already knew he would die, and I hate reading those types of books. I can handle those movies without a teardrop, but I’m reluctant to putting myself through the pain of reading the stories.
The thing is, when I thought he would die, I had no idea it would be THAT way. I thought he’d get really sick, and then he would die, and Lou would end with some beautiful life lesson to move on. I was really upset because, okay, in rl, not everything has a happy ending. In fact, few things do, but since it was a movie, you would still expect at least a decent message, like, not all things go like expected, but that’s life, and you have to appreciate the beautiful.
Instead, I feel like the movie said ‘I’m sorry disabled people, your life will never be the same, don’t even try, and not even the love of your parents, your friends, or that special someone will make it any better, sorry, bye!’ Like you, I’m not disabled, but that was my impression, and it feels pretty damn depressing to me.
Yes! I felt like, if I hadn’t read the book, that would have been the message I would have gotten as well. But it was hard to say for sure since I HAD read the book. Now, I’m not gonna lie, even in the book, you had to face the fact that Will didn’t want to live with his disability. But it seemed much more palatable when he was suffering from pain and illness, NOT just sad about not being able to ski or whatever.
I have read this book, but I have not seen the movie yet. I read this book years ago before all the movie hype and honestly, I didn’t have any idea going into it that it would be about suicide. Maybe I didn’t read much about the premise or I didn’t read the reviews or whatever, but that part did surprise me a bit when I read it. The way you talk about the movie makes me not really want to see it. The whole point of his decision was that he couldn’t stand to live his life with debilitating pain and illness with no hopes of getting better. I am fairly certain that people in his position who choose to end their lives DON’T make that choice simply because their life is different. That kind of makes me angry and makes it seem like the movie is suggesting that anyone in a wheelchair would want to die. That was NOT the message of the book. I agree that the book did a great job of showing both sides of the issue and that the people who loved Will chose to support him even though they didn’t agree with him. I don’t like the idea of Lou just accepting his decision and being okay with it. Sigh. I will probably still watch the movie, but those changes do irk me a bit. Great review though.
Yes, and the fact is that there probably are people in a wheelchair who are depressed about their condition simply because of what they cannot do, and we certainly wouldn’t want to encourage them to die. That’s a horrible message.