Do Donald Trump's sinking poll numbers have you down? Are you a Bernie-or-Buster feeling blue? Are you sick and tired of hearing about her damn e-mails? Why not escape from the partisan bickering of the political theater and settle into the warm, popcorn-scented dark your local film theater to enjoy one or more of these fine* pictures? These are the movies coming soon to a big screen near you!
*Movies not guaranteed to be fine, may in fact thoroughly suck. 


In Theaters August 5

Suicide Squad

At a Glance: Set in the aftermath of "Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice," the third installment in the DC Extended Universe sees the government assemble a team of criminal lunatics and superhuman killers to undertake secret missions of its behalf.



Why I'm Excited (With Eyes Wide Shut): Okay, so the reviews are in and they're bad. But as Levar Burton once said, "You don't have to take my word for it," so I'm going to see it anyway. After the disaster of "Dawn of Justice," I so want DC to right their cinematic ship and produce a good movie with these characters I grew up with. The marketing and trailer has been great; I'll cling to that until the movie breaks my heart this weekend.


Nine Lives

At a Glance: Kevin Spacey plays a bad dad who gets turned into a cat by Christopher Walken and must make amends or be stuck in the furry form forever! Will this family film be fur-ociously funny or cat-astrophe?



Why I'm (Sadistically) Excited: "Nine Lives" looks so terrible I almost have to see it. Sadly for me, my wife won't accompany me (she issued a very stern "we are not wasting money to see that trash") and if I go alone I'll look like a child predator.


The Little Prince

At a Glance: We first previewed "The Little Prince" back in March, when it was set to be released by Paramount Pictures. After a wildly successful European opening, the film was inexplicably dropped  only two weeks before its scheduled US release.  Thanks to Netflix, the mixed-animation adaptation of the classic story is finally reaching audiences this month.



Why I'm Excited: What a strange journey "The Little Prince" has had. This has been one of my most anticipated movies for the year and I'm delighted it's finally here. Critical response has been very positive in the countries, like France, where it saw theatrical release.


In Theaters August 12

Pete's Dragon

At a Glance: In this modern day retelling of Disney's 1977 original, a forest ranger seeks to unravel the mystery of Pete, a boy found after six years living alone in the wilderness, and Elliot, the dragon he claims to have protected him.



Why I'm Excited: This has been an exceptionally strong year for Disney magic. The company's studios have released seven features so far this year; five have received universal acclaim and only one ("Alice Through the Looking Glass") was received negatively. Further, Disney's string of live action remakes have a strong track record themselves. If this history is any indication, "Pete's Dragon" is sure to be a hit.


Sausage Party

At a Glance: Food has feelings in this R-rated animated picture from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. After spending their lives waiting to be chosen by a customer, groceries are thrust into the nightmarish world of the human kitchen. Frank, an uh, frank, sets out to warn his supermarket friends of the horrible truth.



Why I'm (Shamefully) Excited: I must be a thirteen year old at heart, because I laughed like an idiot at the red band trailer for this movie. It's dumb, it's immature, but I'll be damned if sometimes that isn't exactly what the doctor ordered. But is the concept enough for a feature length film or will this feel like a short stretching the joke way too thin?


Florence Foster Jenkins

At a Glance: In October 1944, a music-loving socialite capped her amateur performing career by singing a concert to a sold out Carnegie Hall. Florence Foster Jenkins was wildly popular; her public adored her. They didn't seem to care that she was objectively a terrible, terrible singer. This is her story.



Why I'm So Excited I Could Sing: For years, I've loved the real story behind Florence Foster Jenkins. There's something endearing in the woman who threw herself so completely and so blindly into her passions. There's something sincere and sweet in how her husband helped and protected her love of performing. This biopic has won glowing praise in the British press since it's release several months ago. This is a day one watch for me.


In Theaters August 19

Ben-Hur

At a Glance: A remake of 1959's Charlton Heston classic, Ben-Hur follows a man as he claws his way from slavery to revenge on the brother who wrongly accused him.



Why I'm (Not?) Excited (Maybe?): I don't know what to make of this. The director's filmography highlight appears to be "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" but the screenplay is co-written by John Ridley, the man behind "12 Years a Slave." The cast seems okay (though nothing near Charlton Heston). But the trailer looks terrible, and this is a remake of one of the most iconic movies of the 1950s - no small bit of work. I'm going to stake out a completely non-committal position on this one.


War Dogs

At a Glance: "War Dogs" is a dramatic comedy inspired by the true story of two American twenty-somethings who in 2007 won a high-dollar Pentagon contract to provide arms to US forces in Afghanistan.



Why I'm Excited: Like "Florence Foster Jenkins," this is another story I'm already familiar with; I've been looking forward to this since I learned it was being adapted. Unlike "Florence," this doesn't have an internal release under its belt to get an early gauge of quality. Miles Teller and Jonah Hill are perfectly capable leads, but the director and writers have more mixed records. But hey, there are no major warning signs and the trailer looks good, so I'm optimistic!


Kubo and the Two Strings

At a Glance: Kubo, son of one of the greatest samurai warriors ever to live, is thrown into an adventure when he accidentally summons an evil spirit from his past.



Why I'm Excited: How incredible to see two stop-motion features released in one month! This may well be my most anticipated film of the month. Laika, the production company behind "Kubo," has a strong record in animated features; previous work includes "Coraline," "The Boxtrolls," and "ParaNorman." The cast is phenomenal, featuring Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes, and Matthew McConaughey among others. If anything gives me pause, it's the relative green-ness of the director (this is his feature debut) and the writers, who have one completed film between them.


Hell or High Water

At a Glance: To save their family farm from foreclosure, two brothers stage a series of high risk bank robberies, racing against two Texas Rangers set to hunt them down.



Why I'm Excited: This film wasn't on my radar at all before sitting down to do this post, but now my interest is piqued. The script, written by Taylor Sheridan ("Sicario") was the winner of the 2012 best Black List script, and the film was very positively received at Cannes earlier this year. I'm glad to say there may be more to "Hell or High Water" than I first granted.


In Theaters August 26

Mechanic: Resurrection

At a Glance: Jason Statham returns as Arthur Bishop in this sequel, threatened into completing three assassinations in order to save the woman of his dreams.



Why I'm Eh: I mean, I'm 100% in favor of anything that keeps Jason Statham working, but was anyone really clamoring for this sequel? Ah well, I suppose there's no harm in dumb excitement every once in a while...but even dumb should be done well.


Don't Breathe

At a Glance: Looking to raise enough money to escape a neglectful family with her sister, Rocky and her friends break into the home of a local blind man rumored to keep a safe in his house only to find themselves trapped in a deadly game of cat and mouse.



Why I'm Excited: This looks spooky! Early reviews for "Don't Breathe" have been very positive. I tend to shy away from horror flicks unless the premise has a strong hook and this has one. There's virtually no chance I convince my wife to see this with me in theaters, though. 2spooky4her!


Hands of Stone

At a Glance: The second biopic of the month finds inspiration in the relationship between Roberto Duran, a Panamanian boxer and one of the so called "Fabulous Four," and Ray Arcel, his trainer.



Why I'm Excited: Chalk this up to another movie that was nowhere on my radar until a few hours ago. This is a film produced, written, and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, whose previous foreign language films drew awards from the British Independent Film Awards and the New York Times. "Hands of Stone" features Robert De Niro in his only other film appearance this year aside from the widely panned "Dirty Grandpa." It would be nice to see him close the year out by wiping the stain of that film away with a solid performance here.


Welcome to my monthly movie preview! This July studios are serving up fourteen new nationwide releases to a theater near you. Adventure awaits audiences with dogs, giants, aliens, and two flavors of ghost! Here are the highlights.


In Theaters July 1

The Legend of Tarzan

At a Glance: Years after leaving the African jungle behind for Victorian high society, Tarzan returns unknowingly at the center in a game of greed and revenge that puts his beloved Jane in danger.



Why I'm Ambivalent: Any movie about Tarzan is going to rely heavily on special effects, and there are plenty of them on display in its theatrical trailers. But the only thing that's impressed me is how unremarkable the effects on both our vine-swinging hero or the stampeding animal are. After being blown away by "The Jungle Book," I'm not sure I'm looking forward to a film built on effects that live firmly in the uncanny valley.

Why My Wife Is Excited: Shirtless Skarsgård swiftly swinging to save sweetie.


The BFG

At a Glance: "The BFG" is the latest film adaptation of classic children's books by Roald Dahl. In "The BFG," orphan Sophie meets and befriends a dream-catching giant. But not all his people are so friendly and the two set off on an adventure to stop the bigger people-eaters who want to snack in the human world.



Why I'm Excited: Disney is poised to have one of their best of recent years and all signs point to "The BFG" being another feather in an already impressive 2016 cap. The film's screenplay is the last written by the late Melissa Mathison, who previously worked with director Steven Spielberg on an obscure little piece called "E.T." Starring Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as BFG and Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement as the bone crunching Fleshlumpeater, "The BFG" boasts talented cast and crew that, with a bit of Disney magic, is sure to delight.


The Purge: Election Year

At a Glance: The third installment about the Purge, an annual bloodletting where no crime goes punished, goes political and seems somehow more unsettling in today's climate. In "The Purge: Election Year," a presidential candidate campaigns on ending the national horror and finds herself targeted in a conspiracy to ensure she does not survive to see the election.



Why I'm Excited (but Scared): I haven't seen any of the previous "Purge" movies. I assumed they were mostly gore porn, the least interesting sub-genre in the horror movie umbrella. Still, "The Purge: Election Year" has really piqued my interested with it's visual direction and themes (at least as presented in marketing materials, for what they're worth). And recently, two good friends have insisted the films aren't very gore-porny. I didn't expect to brave theaters to see this, but who knows? Stranger things have happened.


In Theaters July 8

The Secret Life of Pets

At a Glance: Spoiled jack russell terrier Max's life is turned upside down when his owner brings home a new dog: slobbery, sloppy, clumsy Duke. Each plots to rid themselves of the other, but their schemes go awry when they both are scooped up by the city dog catcher. As Max and Duke try to escape, the neighborhood pets band together to save their friends.



Why I'm (Cautiously) Excited: This is the sixth film by Illumination Entertainment, the production company best known for the "Despicable Me" series and its spin-off, "Minions." While these staples earned the studio critical praise, it's non-franchise pictured fared less well. Even so, audiences seem to appreciate "Hop" and "The Lorax" when critics didn't. I wonder at the release timing though. Sandwiched between "Finding Dory," "The BFG," and the next "Ice Age" movie, there will be no shortage of movies for kids and families. Will "The Secret Life of Pets" be good enough to hang with the big kids?


Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

At a Glance: Hoping to prevent their reckless immaturity from ruining the big day, brothers Mike and Dave must find dates to attend their sister's destination wedding. A viral ad campaign to find suitable women brings them Tatiana and Alice, party girls whose respectable facade melts away as soon as they reach the beaches of Hawaii.



Why I'm Excited: As shocked as I am to say this about a movie starring Zac Efron, I love this cast. The brains behind "M&DNWD" (as I'm sure it will come to be called) are the same duo responsible for "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and the two "Neighbors" films. Nothing makes me feel better about a comedy than proven comic chops on and off the screen.


In Theaters July 13

The Infiltrator

At a Glance: "The Infiltrator" is an adaptation of the autobiography of Robert Mazur, a US Customs special agent who spent five years undercover as a money launderer gaining access to the secrets of the world's most deadly drug cartels including the empire of the "King of Cocaine," Pablo Escobar.



Why I'm Excited: Movies about cartels have a certain alluring darkness, perhaps because there is almost no limit to how evil they can be depicted as and still be rooted at least in some semblance of fact. It's also nice to see Bryan Cranston continue to take a range of interesting roles. Hopefully this thriller is a further boost to a still rising career.


In Theaters July 15

Ghostbusters

At a Glance: The highly anticipated girl-power reboot of "Ghostbusters" is finally here! I don't need to explain the story. Who ya gonna call?



Why I'm Excited: A year of frantic internet speculation is about to come to an end: will the new "Ghostbusters" live up to the hype? I for one have faith in our new heroines. Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wigg have built solid film resumes at this point, while Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones remain two of the brightest spots in a dimming SNL line-up. Even if the trailers give an obnoxious amount away, I'm optimistic that director Paul Feig has a few surprises up his sleeves.


In Theaters July 22

Star Trek Beyond

At a Glance: The third entry in the rebooted series and the thirteenth (!) "Star Trek" film, "Star Trek Beyond" pits a stranded Enterprise crew against an unknown alien threat.



Why I'm Beaming Up, Scotty: The new films may not have the spirit of exploration that defined the franchise's earlier generations, but no one can deny that they're a heck of a lot of fun. And although the film suffered from some studio infighting that led to the departure of its writer/director, the result was that writing duties were handed over to Simon Pegg. After some of the more eye-roll inducing moments in "Into Darkness," giving a Pegg a fresh crack at the material may be a good move.


Lights Out

At a Glance: "Lights Out" is the feature debut of David Sandberg, based on his 2013 short film by the same name. It centers on a family stalked by a creature which can only be seen in the dark.



Why I'm Excited (Safely Near a Night Light): I remember the short (linked above) making waves when it first hit YouTube. It's one of the creepier YouTube shorts out there, thanks to how it preys on natural fears that many of us experience at some point or another. That said, I worry that the gimmick may run a bit thin when spread out over a full feature length, particularly if it falls back on cliché origin stories for its monster. Still, as a fan of the original I'm keen to support Sandberg in his debut.


Ice Age: Collision Course

At a Glance: "Ice Age: The Fifth One" threatens Pleistocene pals Manny, Diego, and Sid with extinction as meteors bear down on earth. They and their friends band together and undertake an adventure to survive.



Why I'm (Not) Excited: I may be the only person on the planet who missed the first through fourth "Ice Age" films. Perhaps some history with the character would help find some humor in the trailers, which otherwise seem laden with lazy gags.



In Theaters July 27

Nerve

At a Glance: Video games, social media, and reality television meet with dangerous results in "Nerve," a movie about a student engaged in an online game of truth-or-dare controlled by its anonymous watchers. "Nerve" is an adaptation of the 2012 novel by Jeanne Ryan.



Why I'm (Mildly) Excited: I love the premise and even the trailer but have zero faith the director, whose most noteworthy credits are the later "Paranormal Activity" films. There are some burning embers of hope, though. Writer Jessica Sharzer has done some work on the acclaimed "American Horror Story," and Emma Roberts, who stars as player "Vee," delivered campy fun on FOX's "Scream Queens" last fall.


In Theaters July 29

Bad Moms

At a Glance: Pushed to the breaking point by high standards and no appreciation, Amy and two other stressed-out moms rebel against the impossible expectations of the perfect mothers in her community.



Why I'm (Cautiously) Excited: This movie could really go one of two ways. It could go the way of "Trainwreck," a movie that wrapped raunchy, care-free indulgence around a touching, heart-felt sentiment. Or it could lapse into a movie about irresponsible people doing unlikeable things with no meaningful depth. I laughed at the trailer, but trailers can lie.


Café Society

At a Glance: The story of an on-and-off romance between a New Yorker who comes to Hollywood looking for excitement and falls for his uncle's mistress.



Why I'm Excited: I've never seen a Woody Allen movie, so my interest is in no way based on his merit as a filmmaker. The period interests me and I like the cast. Steve Carrell's continued evolution in his post-"The Office" years is fascinating, and I feel like I owe Jessie Eisenberg another chance since our break up over "Batman v Superman." Same for Kristen Stewart, whom I've unfairly written off despite not seeing her in a film since "Twilight."


Jason Bourne

At a Glance: July ends with a bang as Matt Damon returns to the Bourne series, reclaiming his rightful place from nobody's favorite leading man, poor Jeremy Renner.



Why I'm Excited: This release gives me an excuse to go back and watch the entire Bourne series, which I've never actually seen! Holy moley!


Thank you for reading! Now tell me what you think. What are you most excited to see? Sound off in the comments!


"The Shallows" is not a complicated movie. A woman is bitten by a shark and left stranded on a rocky outcropping that will soon vanish under the rising tide. She plans her escape back to shore while her attacker lurks, waiting. It's a stripped down premise for a thrilling game of cat and mouse that is at its best when at its simplest and which feels less special the bigger it tries to go.

After a brief ride through the Mexican jungle, Blake Lively's med-student-turned-surfer-girl Nancy arrives on the silver sands of an isolated beach called Paradise. Her smiles and warmth mask pain from a terrible loss that has blown her life off course. Here, on the crashing waves of crystal blue water, she hopes to find relief.

Clocking in at a sleek 87 minutes, "The Shallows" wastes no time getting Nancy into the water, but neither is it in any hurry to get to her attack. From the first moment she steps into the surf, our hearts beat a little faster. Somewhere out there, unseen, we know what waits for her. Director Jaume Collet-Serra aggravates those nerves by plunging the camera in and out of the water as Nancy blissfully rides the waves; the upbeat party music that accompanies her above is suddenly and completely drowned by a deep, uneasy silence.

When the attack finally comes, it is sudden and violent. As Nancy is dragged under reddening water, we never see the shark. Instead, the camera is locked close on her face. The pain conveyed is visceral and cringe inducing. By preying on our imaginations, "The Shallows" allows us this horrifying experience without showing its gory detail. It's fantastically effective for a PG-13.

Throughout the film, its best moments are those where it allows our imaginations to run wild. When Nancy fashions makeshift stitches for her legs, the visuals are admittedly grotesque, but it's the choice to stay on Nancy's face that makes you lightheaded. We feel as she feels, thanks to Lively's phenomenal performance and the faith the filmmaker has in us to relate to her.

In fact, it's hard to overstate how important Blake Lively is to the making "The Shallows" work. Her performance evokes a bit of Tom Hanks' from "Cast Away" (even if these movies aren't in the same league): she is on screen for nearly the entire running time, sharing the majority of it not with other actors but with her very own Wilson, here in the form of an injured sea gull. A barebones script offers her few opportunities to establish Nancy and her relationships, and yet we feel we know her anyway.

All of this means that when later the film loses grip of its "less is more" philosophy, it stings of disappointment. As the stakes are raised, the shark transforms from faceless force of nature to a more generic jumpy, chompy, bitey, malevolent creature. As it's attacks on Nancy escalate, the tension slowly deflates. No CGI shark will ever be as scary as one you can't see, and nothing it does will ever be as scary as what you imagine it could do.

Still, "The Shallows" surprises, thrills, and delights more than most and is a more layered film than it's simplicity suggests. Thanks to this film, I'm sure I'll have a moment of reflection the next time I'm standing on a beach, just before shaking it off and running into the sea.

Score: 4 / 5

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to begin by stating that I have two conflicting biases that may affect my opinion of "Warcraft." On the one hand, I've been a fan of the Warcraft video game series for about fourteen years. Whatever this film's target audience is, I'm unquestionably in it. But on the other hand, I'm predisposed against video game movies because throughout cinematic history they have been, without exception, complete garbage. The safest bet you could make is that "Warcraft" would be too.

But it wasn't! I enjoyed "Warcraft" more than I didn't and while I wouldn't say this is a great film, it is a pretty fun one that comes nearer to breaking the game movie curse than any preceding adaptation. "Warcraft's" greatest flaw is an unevenness that pervades its every aspect, a flaw that becomes an asset in the context of the genre's low expectations. "Warcraft" suffers typical video game movie lows but is elevated above its station by highs that suggest a better movie beneath the schlock.

The war in "Warcraft" is fought between the orcs, a hulking warrior race from a distant dying world, and the humans of Azeroth whose lands they seek to claim as their new home. The orcs are led there through a portal created by the sorcerer Gul'dan, whose twisted magic is fueled by stolen life. Gul'dan seeks to subdue and sacrifice the humans beyond to power a second portal strong enough to transport the entire waiting orc horde to Azeroth.

But not all orcs follow blindly. Durotan, chieftain of one of the orc clans, is wary of Gul'dan's magic and rejects the fel that turns the warlock's followers into green-skinned juggernauts. And wisely too, as it turns out Gul'dan's gift is a sort of faustian bargain with a high price. Durotan comes to suspect that Gul'dan's magic is not a source of power, but corruption, and turns to the only ones on Azeroth who might help him save his people: the humans.

For their part, the human forces led by King Llane stage a meager defense against the surprise invasion. Returning bodies marked by the fel draw the attention of a young mage named Khadgar. Alarmed that something more sinister than orcs is at work, he implores the king and his warrior Lothar to summon the kingdom's guardian, his former master Medivh. Together, they seek to unravel the mysteries of the fel and repel the orc invaders before it's too late.

One of "Warcraft's" strengths is that it resists the temptation to take sides in the war between orcs and humans. The war may be fought between the races, but the orcs do not have a monopoly on evil, nor the humans on good. Even if character motivations in "Warcraft" are not terribly complex, the film achieves some depth by having characters on both sides struggle with the film's themes of loyalty, trust, sacrifice and fatherhood. "Warcraft" has a few poignant moments that wouldn't be possible if there wasn't a beating heart lost somewhere in the script.

Unfortunately, you can only hear that heartbeat about half the time. Surprisingly, the orc-centric scenes stand the tallest. Durotan is without question the most developed character in the movie, best-written and convincingly brought to life with outstanding visual effects and a terrific performance by Toby Kebbell. Durotan's character arc is complete and satisfying because we see every step as it unfolds. We see him as an expecting father playfully teasing his pregnant mate. We get a sense of his worry as the pair walk into Gul'dan's portal. In one of my favorite scenes, we see his harrowing first moments of fatherhood. It's not much, but these scenes help us get a sense of why Durotan makes the choices he does.

This is contrasted by entirely two-dimensional live action characters, who feel less real than any of the computer-generated orcs. There's no evidence of the care put into making Durotan relatable. Relationships are established by characters simply stating to each other how they are related to each other, then moving on with no elaboration. Without meaningful relationships, there is no reason to invest in the characters. With the exception of Khadgar, whose doughy boyish looks and clumsy nature are endearing, no one is really memorable. Well, I suppose there's Medivh, who is memorable because of terrible miscasting.

Generally speaking, if you split the orc and human scenes of "Warcraft" into separate films, I'd swear they were made by entirely different people. The two halves' tones are wildly different, with orc tending towards heft and the serious and the human scenes more lighthearted and comedy bordering on weightlessness. Nowhere is this more evident than the film's climax, which peaks early with orc drama then collapses into a relentlessly silly fight against a chorus of bad ideas and execution. Even the visual effects in human scenes are bafflingly terrible. They must have blown the budget on the orcs; it's the only way to explain human spell effects and glowing eyes so decidedly B-grade. And a special mention to the worst looking elves in movie history!

Still, I enjoyed "Warcraft." There's almost certainly more here for fans of the series than the uninitiated, but director Duncan Jones has done well enough in his telling of Durotan's story to make up for at least some of the bad choices in those of Lothar and Khagdar. I've never seen a video game movie that left me thinking that a sequel could be better, but here we are: I'm actually not repulsed by the idea of a "Warcraft 2." If they learn from what went well in this installment, it could be the first truly great video game movie.

"Assassin's Creed" is still going to be garbage, though.

Score: 3 / 5 

"Me Before You" is a competently-made film. Its leads are likable and have natural on-screen chemistry. You want things to work out for them. Its tearjerker moments largely avoid melodrama and thanks to well-placed Ed Sheeran songs, the soundtrack is sufficiently sappy. On it's surface, it's a somewhat above-average date movie. I even shed a tear. And yet, the more I think about "Me Before You" the more annoyed I become, because despite all that, there's something rotten at the center: tensions built on a foundation of a tone-deaf attitude towards disability.

Laid off and desperate to help support her parents, Louisa "Lou" Clark is between jobs, struggling to find work that matches with her bubbly personality. Things look bleak, but Lou scores an interview for a caregiving position at the sprawling, castle-like Traynor estate. The interview goes poorly, but despite (or because of?) nervous eccentricities and a torn skirt, Lou lands the job.

Her patient is Will Traynor, a thirty-something once successful in business and sport, now confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck-down after a motorcycle accident two years earlier. Will's condition is incurable and has deeply affected his personality. In stark contrast to Lou's smiling optimism, Will spends his days brooding, listening to angsty music and staring grimly out of a window. Lou's job is to simply keep him company, but wouldn't you know it, she starts to fall for him. She sets out to show Will that life is still waiting for him beyond the estate, unaware of the tragic path Will's outlook has set him on.

Let's start positively. Most of the performances in "Me Before You" are good, but the clear star here is Emilia Clarke. Her portrayal of Lou is infinitely likable. Throughout the film, Lou sacrifices her own happiness for that of others, including her parents, her sister, her boyfriend, and Will himself. Some of these sacrifices are treated as no-brainers, while others weigh heavily on Lou. Emilia effortlessly sells her struggle with selflessness. You genuinely want things to turn out well for her, and despite his gruff and off-putting introduction, you come to root for Will because she does, too.

Sam Claflin plays Will, and while his performance isn't as good as his co-star, he eventually breaks out of his first act monotone to emote a bit, delivering a performance that helps build on the real chemistry the two actors share. As Will's parents, Charles Dance and Janet McTeer say much without speaking. It's clear Will's accident has deeply affected them, and while united in love for their son their disagreements in how best to care for him have clearly played out many times before.

In addition to avoiding too much cringe, the script is funnier than I expected. I found myself chuckling along while Lou bantered with her sister (played by "Doctor Who" alum Jenna Coleman) about dress appropriateness, and laughing at Lou's frustration with the utter uselessness of her boyfriend (Matthew Lewis). And while Will is profoundly unlikeable in his first scenes, his dry, bitter wit is an amusing foil to Lou's positivity.

In fact, most of the film is fine, if not good. The wheels start to come off in scenes dealing with the film's primary conceit: a man struggling to find value in life after becoming disabled.

When Will talks about the impact of disability on his life, he talks almost exclusively in terms of physical limitations. In scene after scene, he laments things he can no longer do. Other characters discuss his condition with tacit agreement, a sense of "tut, tut, what a shame to live that way." Lou, blind to his disability, seeks to inject life back into Will, but even her successes are book ended with his bleak attitude: Happiness is temporary, disability is forever, and who would want this life? These scenes are meant to inspire sympathy, but are troubling when set against the film's seeming rejection of a "handi-capable" mentality.

People who develop handicaps must surely face a range of physical, emotional, and mental challenges as they overcome their disability and adjust to life after. But struggle to overcome is not represented here. Will has given up. Why? Well, his condition is irreversible. We are told he is in constant excruciating pain. We never see that, but we do hear Will repeatedly talk about how he can't do the things he once could. This is a negative, one-dimensional portrayal of disability in a medium that rarely portrays it at all.

Perhaps this is also a fault of the source material. The novel by Jojo Moyes has been similarly criticized by disability advocates. The filmmakers were surely aware of this, yet appear to have done nothing to mitigate the implications of Will's outlook. A film adaption that embraces its source's flaws cannot be excused from repeating them. Despite otherwise enjoying the film, this failure has stayed with me the longest. That's a real shame.

Score: 3 / 5


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