My suspicion is that “Like Crazy” will drive some audience members batty. It certainly happened at the preview screening I attended, where a number of people seemed to be expecting some sort of bubblegum romantic comedy and (loudly) expressed their dissatisfaction with what they got.
This indie drama from director/co-writer Drake Doremus is closer in mood and tone to 2010’s “Blue Valentine” than the latest boy-meets-girl confection. It’s a tender love story, but weighted with a sense of tragedy and longing. Even during the headiest moments of whirlwind romance, the expectation of rocky waters ahead never fades.
Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones star as Jacob and Anna, two lovers separated by an ocean of circumstance. He’s American, she’s British, both about to graduate from a California university. She’s a budding journalist, while he wants to design and build his own furniture. The biggest gasp moment of their story comes not at some huge moment of emotional outpouring, but when he gives Anna a chair he hand-made for her.
Doremus and co-screenwriter Ben York Jones (who also plays a small part) are less interested in stepping in the footprints of previous films about relationships but mapping out the terrain of modern love among Millenials. The result is a movie filled with pregnant pauses and long silences, where a furtive expression or gesture provides a window into this self-conscious pair’s inner lives.
What is left unsaid often speaks louder than their stammering, halting exchanges of dialogue.
Anna is supposed to leave the States when her student visa expires but decides to overstay for the summer so the relationship can take root. Alas, when she travels back to London for a family wedding, she finds herself unable to return because of her violation. She and Jacob spend weeks, then months apart, trying to keep their affection alive through late-night phone calls and emails.
It makes for an interesting set-up for a long-distance relationship, though the depiction of U.S. immigration laws — which more resemble a leaky sieve than a tight net — is fanciful.
During their long separations, both Anna and Jacob find temptation on their respective shores. For her, it’s a kind neighbor who’s always dropping by (Charlie Bewley). In Jacob’s case, he tumbles into Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), an assistant at his workshop who seems willing to accept whatever scraps of Jacob’s affections are available when his devotion to Anna has waned.
“Like Crazy” has heft and authenticity, a telling portrait of modern relationships as they really are rather than how we would like them to be. It’s a slow, often sad tale that unfolds at its own pace so the audience (at least those with patience) feel like they’re experiencing reality transpire rather than being embraced by a movie.