(Drake Doremus, 2011)
A refreshingly simple tale of long distance young love, Like Crazy is slight but affecting.
Based on writer-director Doremus' own early-20s relationship with an Austrian girl living in London, it follows the relationship of Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Ana (Felicity Jones) after they meet at University in Los Angeles. Instead of returning home to London in the Summer as her Student Visa demands, Ana stays in L.A., and that decision massively affects the rest of both of their lives, as she is later deported and barred from re-entering the US. Thus she and Jacob are forced to endure a long-distance relationship with all it's inevitable strains and temptations.
Doremus, keen to ensure a loose, casual versimilitude suited to the youth of his characters, used a semi-improvised approach, and the film is filled with nicely unforced moments. The early scenes, as the couple fall in love, are realistically dependent on nuance and expression, while the later sequences of their relationship cracking due to the distances opening between them are more about the silences themselves and the nuances implicit in what they hide from one another. This approach risks cliche, and some passages here are cringeworthy and over-familiar, but there is much charm too in the film's earnestness and emotional openness. Yelchin and Jones both do strong work, their evident chemistry making their passion believable throughout, and their pain and loneliness during their spells apart rings painfully true.
One scene in particular, where their wary, self-protective distance crumbles into weepy open declarations of need over the telephone, is terrifically acted by both. Doremus aims for a direct, at times elegiac visual poetry, and at some points he definitely gets there; but too often Like Crazy settles for something like advertising imagery, pretty pictures of beautiful young people creating ideal memories. It does have a terrific sense of place, from London in summer to Santa Monica, and some emotions besides the central relationship are beatifully captured; the good-humoured protectiveness of Ana's middle-class parents, for instance, or the brutality of Jacob's recurrent dismissal of his girlfriend in Ana's absence, played by a radiant Jennifer Lawrence.
But it's main problem is also perhaps it's great strength. All it really wants to say is that love hurts, and it says that very well indeed.