"Please don't think I'm a nutcase."
It's difficult to find something more powerful than love. When it's found, it's all encompassing; nothing else matters really. The world seems small, like everything unfolded just the right way. Director Drake Doremus has captured something special here: a romance that feels sincere. Filled with not only the tender moments, but also the most trying times that cinema so often glazes over.
Felicity Jones is Anna, a British exchange student near the end of her stay. Jones won the Jury Prize for best actress at this year's Sundance Film Festival, and rightfully so. She is simply electric. We're introduced to her as she's presenting to her English class. In between words, she steals glances at Jacob (Anton Yelchin), later slipping a handwritten note* on his windshield. They decide on dinner, then later return to Anna's dorm room. They share stories, future plans. Anna recites a poem she recently wrote. It's on.
*I remember those notes. Thinking up things to write that sound legit, but end up being completely absurd. Filled with corny observations and optimistic words. We only catch a few meager lines from Anna's in the film, but I would have loved to have read the whole thing. It brings me back. I hope everyone has felt that way before.
After carefully fleshing out the initial attraction, Doremus zips through their budding relationships in fast cuts, showing Jacob and Anna enjoying all that Los Angeles has to offer. Alas, their time is fleeting. School is finished and Anna must return home before her student visa runs out. Regrettably, Anna is as naïve as she is lovable. She decides to bypass the visa's end-date and spend a few extra months in the States. Sure, they share one more summer together, but to what end? Perhaps 'Like Crazy' comes from thinking that in the aftermath of 9/11, crossing the TSA would work out in her favor. She is stopped the next time she enters American soil, and is immediately sent back to the United Kingdom.
If anyone has spent time away from a loved one, this narrative will ring all-too-true. Where once was comfort, that space has been taken up by sadness and paranoia. For a short while, Jacob and Anna carry on the best they can, talking online and over the phone. Soon however, "life" takes over. Jacob starts up a successful furniture business, while Anna gets her first big break, editing a London-based blog. Other associations begin to fill the void**--out of sight, out of mind, so to speak.
**The "others" are Charlie Bewley and the always incredible Jennifer Lawrence. Yelchin and Jones dominate the screen time, which is a shame only for the fact that it allows Lawrence a scant few (but still important) minutes of face time. One in particular stands out when Lawrence's Sam is crying on Jacob's shoulder. Beautifully done. It would be hard to say no to that woman.
This plays like a home video--and I mean that positively. We've infiltrated these peoples lives at the most (to them anyway) important time. The best moments are the most intimate ones: walking alone on the beach, or sharing secrets beneath the safety of bed sheets. Between this and 2010's BLUE VALENTINE, we've been extremely lucky to have two films that are an honest look at what relationships truly are, what makes them tick. While VALENTINE is utterly devastating, LIKE CRAZY is more heartening at its core, but it levels you no less. Because that's what relationships are; they're not easy, not even close. With time and effort, the end result can be more than gratifying, but you're going to have to work to get there.
Great films allow the viewer one of two things: to escape, or to relate. CRAZY does the latter exceptionally well. Undoubtedly the success rides on Doremus's bold decision to allow his stars the freedom to ad-lib the majority of the film's lines. Doremus prepared a fifty page outline and then just let Yelchin and Jones loose. I've mentioned Jones, but Yelchin is equally as impressive. The Russian born star has built up a very respectable career in a short period. At this time, he's probably most widely known as STAR TREK's Pavel Chekov, or TERMINATOR: SALVATION's Kyle Reese. As well, Anna's parents played by Oliver Muirhead and Alex Kingston are spectacular. Just the right amount of comedy and a love of whiskey thrown in.
Apparently, the story stems from the director's own life (and others I'd imagine). He lived through a long distance liaison, eventually marrying her. In a very un-Hollywood way, they ended up divorcing, which removes the magic ever so slightly. But of course this is not a fairy tale, but real life. Jacob and Anna's sole goal is be together. Whether or not they make it, you'll have to see for yourself. After expending so much energy to find one another time and again, they must wonder though if it's truly meant to be. If they permanently reconnect, what then? What now?