Film Review / This is not a love story. Or is it? It’s what you’re left wondering during the final embrace of the romantic drama Like Crazy. Either way, it’s definitely not the conventionally capitalized Love Story the trailers would lead you to expect, root for, then share-an-ice-cream-cone-with-your-date-while-looking-into-each-other’s-eyes-and-“believe”-in over.
A crowned darling at this year’s Sundance, director Drake Doremus’ film instead chronicles young love spanning an undisclosed number of years, the Atlantic Ocean and a broader definition of the L-word.
College students Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin) first notice each other in a media studies class at a LA college. She’s an expat British journalism student; he’s an American who designs furniture. They hardly know each other, but the feeling is…there. It’s enough to drive Anna to leave a meandering handwritten note with her number attached to Jacob’s windshield. They meet for tea. They laugh at each other’s jokes. They bond over Paul Simon’s Graceland. The hand-held cinematography flutters through their early courtship, like the butterflies they feel for each other, as the two become a steady thing.
On the day of Anna’s return to the UK, months later and still enamored, she decides to violate her visa in favor of staying the summer with Jacob. That the two think immigration laws don’t apply to them is crazily naïve, but that’s kind of the point to a film called Like Crazy. It’s a glaringly stupid error with zero foresight, but before you knock it, show me one person who’s never once made an impulsive decision in order to live in the moment with another. If you can, you’ll stick around for the emotional challenges in store–the best parts of the film–when Anna’s denied entry back into the US following a short trip to England. If you can’t, maybe you just forgot what it’s like to be in your early twenties and needed reminding.
Reportedly shot on a $1,500 Canon DSLR camera and a detailed 50-page outline with largely improvised dialogue, Doremus impressively marries the best of two adjacent cine-worlds: the mumblecore movie sentiment popular to this twenty-something generation and the polished production value of a better financed indie movie. The narrative is loose, the direction honest, the editing agile–just enough to sweep you into Jones and Yelchin’s natural chemistry, blank enough to paint your own experiences onto–as it drifts through their attempts to stay together despite the distance. Anyone whose been in one will identify with the authentic details of a LDR depicted here: spontaneous “I miss you” text messages, the dreaded “open relationship” conversation, phone calls where both parties pretend they’ll meet up in 15 minutes in favor of saying “goodbye.” Those parts cut kind of deep.
Don’t be so shocked that Like Crazy has no overbearing parents, unlikable side characters trying to keep the leads apart or a sudden fatal death. Because just two people trying to keep it alive as life slips inbetween is complicated enough.