AT THE STREET CAFE
An inevitable scene of saying forever goodbye between Will and Louisa is superseded by another one: his sleeping suit is to be driven out by an image of the descending leaf. In the course of these few seconds, the story still holds back a direct answer to Will’s fate with cinematic picturesqueness. A motive of a culled leaf classically reproduces an issue of the delicacy of human existence, in this particular case, a heritage of a poet, who has gone (Will as an author of the letter to Clark). Another shade of imagery of the scene deals with a connection between those, who have passed away and those who still live. For the present story of ‘Me before you’, Will’s life symbolically comes to an end with the purpose to pass the torch of adventures and purposeness to Lou. The ongoing ‘end’ of the leaf as a part of the leaf pile under one’s foot in the street underlines a transitional nature of the generations as something pure and natural. Two loving birds on the bench with no coincidence resemble two main characters of the story: an appearance of the actors leaves no space for an eventuality. Thus, the love story of Will Traynor and Louisa Clark comes to an end, thus making space for thousands of similars to come.
A Parisian epilogue sequence takes up nothing but only four minutes of the narration, yet the cinematography proactively sends out a message on where we are. Considering the fact that a maple leaf would rather make parallels with Canada, the movie fills the scene with French coloring and a number of distinctive trigger bells. A young girl and a man on the front as well as another couple behind. A dynamo young guy, who discomposes a leaf pile with his red boots and a body gilet. An elderly man, who makes his way across a cozy street with a coarse walking stick from the past. A young woman in her wide paints and groceries, carefully mounted inside a wreath basket, dominated by a knowable French baguette. At once several bikes break in the perspective all while the camera makes a paced move toward, finally, a brick street cafe. We catch a glimpse of the main female character, absorbed in her thoughts while reading the last letter from her beloved Will, supposedly meant to be read on this very place in Paris.
With regard to a novel of the same name by Jojo Moyes, a basis for the movie adaptation, the envelope in that authentic version included a line of instructions: ONLY TO BE READ IN THE CAFE MARQUIS, RUE DES FRANCS BOURGEOIS, ACCOMPANIED BY CROISSANTS AND A LARGE CAFÉ CRÈME. The author of the book made up a name for a fictional cafe, however, both a novel and ‘Me before you’ movie recreates an aura of a Parisian street cafe to the extent of a breathtaking feel. The filming crew favored a cozy ‘Place Dauphine’ square in the West end of the legendary Cite island rather than ‘Rue des Francs Bourgeois’ street in the novel. A charming open space, regarded as a ‘Cinderella of Paris’, ‘Place Dauphine’ has been welcoming Parisians and guests for the latter four centuries. Unsurprisingly, that as early as five years prior to ‘Me before you’ shooting, the location was already picked on by Woody Allen and his charming ‘Midnight in Paris’ (2011), recapturing an aura of Paris in the 1920s.
The parallels with ‘Midnight in Paris’ go beyond ‘Place Dauphine’ as an overall location for both movies. A street cafe, a safe harbor for Louisa’s loneliness and reading the letter from Will, makes no secret of its naming: RESTAURANT PAUL, located at 15 Place Dauphine. From this very place, the characters of Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard were taken by a horse carriage even further in time to witness ‘La Belle Epoque’. The owners and staff of Restaurant Paul take pride in the history of the storefront, which originates as far back in history as the beginning of the XX century by preserving the exterior and interior details, as well as traditions of welcoming guests. It is much in evidence with an appearance of a waiter, dressed in a classic white-and-black uniform with a bow tie and a jacket, which also makes a cinematic reference to another Hollywood movie filmed in Paris: Tourist (2010) with Angelina Jolie’s time at a street cafe. Back in the times of the first half of the XX century, ‘Restaurant Paul’ was regarded as a meeting place for oddish painters, musicians, actors, and intellectuals. Relatedly, the ‘bee’ panty-leg stockings of Lou (Emilia Clarke) harmonize with the place supremely well. As Will foretasted, Lou sits ‘IN ONE OF THOSE CHAIRS THAT NEVER SIT QUITE LEVEL ON THE PAVEMENT’ and it is indeed ‘STILL SUNNY’.
On some level, Louisa ‘Lou’ Clark fulfills a dream of Will Traynor to make his way back to Paris: the matter he had dreamed off, yet feared as well being now wheel-chair-bound. In this sense, his in-letter motivation to ‘WEAR THOSE STRIPY LEGS WITH PRIDE’ resembles a bit more than just an ironic statement in regard to the way Clark looks. In a more symbolic way, Will urges Louisa to live a kind of life, that is now no more a reality for himself: to walk across the streets of Paris and to move through life. All his way since the accident, the main male character was trapped in the reality that he could not make travels in a way he had done before and even leave his heartland English city. Louisa leaves a table of Restaurant Paul, looks about as if she looks into one’s strength to move forward and not to get herself under the wheels of the bikes as well. Seconds later, we could see the very couple from the bench sequence and now their appearance brings the understanding that they look different from Will and Lou. Lou measuredly crosses the open space of ‘Place Dauphine’ in the Western direction of ‘Pont Neuf’.
In a novel by Jojo Moyes, Will did leave precise instructions on the way she should make her way through Paris by taking time in a street cafe and making a purchase. IF YOU LOOK DOWN THE ROAD TO YOUR LEFT YOU WILL HOPEFULLY SEE L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR WHERE, AFTER YOU READ THIS, YOU SHOULD GO AND TRY THE SCENT CALLED SOMETHING LIKE PAPILLONS EXTRÊME. The ‘Me before you’ movie keeps its own cinematic geography by omitting the bookish details and taking her from the fictional ‘Cafe Marquis’ at Rue des Francs-Bourgeois to the well-known ‘Restaurant Paul’ in the Western part of the Cite island. As late as the next shot, we could see the character of Emilia Clarke in front of a showcase of a perfume boutique called L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR PARIS. Another ’La Grande Boutique’ inscription below is self-explanatory without translation as well as ‘PARFUMS EXTRAORDINAIRES DEPUIS 1976’.
At the time of the principal filming back in Spring and Summer 2015, this very perfume shop was located at 2 Rue de l’Amiral de Coligny, merely five minutes walk from Place Dauphine, indeed to the left side of the famous ‘Pont Neuf’ bridge while movie from the Cite island. At present, the first floor of the address is accommodated by one of the hotels of the ‘Sweet Inn’ franchise and the perfume showcase moved to 167 Boulevard Saint-Germain as late as 2016. As of today, Paris welcomes its guests with six stores of L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR PARIS, opened in 1985, 1989, 2002, 2016, 2019, 2020 retrospectively.
PONT ALEXANDRE III
Louisa leaves ‘L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR’ at 2 Rue de l’Amiral de Coligny obviously in a high spirit. The movie version of a letter from Will is turned out to be clearly shorter than the one in the novel, without step-by-step instructions. Relatedly in both versions, the now gone character makes a promise to be beside her and asks Lou not to cling to her sadness too often and ‘JUST LIVE WELL’. As early as in the oncoming scene, we could see the key character on her way across the most knowable bridge in Paris: Pont Alexandre II. The first cornerstone of the landmark was laid by French President Félix Faure and at that time still young Tsar Nicholas II in 1896 in honor of the latter’s father Alexander III. The bridge was fated to become a symbol of the 1900 ‘Exposition Universelle’, known in English as Paris Exposition. In the course of seven months, this international affair did welcome as many as fifty million people from around the world. The Parisians and guests had all means to find delight in walking next to extensive pavilions and Pont Alexandre III was masterminded to connect two parts of the open-air exhibition on both banks of the Seine river. It was here, at the one end of Pont Alexandre III, where French president Émile François Loubet (Félix Faure had died a year before) inaugurated the exhibition on April 14, 1900.
We catch a glimpse of Louisa Clark and the very black and liliaceous shop carton with the ‘L’ARTISAN PARFUMEUR PARIS’ inscription. The distance between the two locations is true could be covered in 15 to 20 minutes of a paced walk across the promenade of the North, thus the Right bank of Seine. If only every movie was a part of the same cinematic universe, Clark could pay attention to some of the well-known filming locations on her way to the bridge. At arm’s end from her starting point, she passed a fancy ‘Pont des Arts’ bridge, which granted us with the ending shots of ‘The Bourne identity’ and Matt Damon going dark. The further route neighbors the Southern wall of the iconic Louvre and particularly across ‘Place du Carrousel’ square, depicted in ‘Da Vinci code’ from the window of the toilet (a scene with a soup and a truck).
The final section of Lou’s walking toward Pont Alexandre II besides the walls of ‘Le Musée de l’Orangerie’, another location from ‘Midnight in Paris’, a place for a heated discussion on the matter of Monet’s paintings and motivation. As a matter of fact, the very Pont Alexandre II bridge itself played a significant part in Woody Allen’s story, as well as appearing in the ‘National Lampoon’s European Vacation’ with Chevy Chase. On the occasion of their journey to Paris, the Griswald family crossed the bridge on their way to a hotel and later appreciated a souvenir shop on the Right bank. The camera perspective has been chosen for ‘Me before you’, recreates a remarkable line of sight toward the Eiffel tower. As the scenery expands, the panorama catches ‘Hotel des Invalides’, the grave of Napoleon Bonaparte, as well.