Like Crazy (2011)

As I was watching Like Crazy this past week, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a film I saw several weeks before – Hiroshi Ishikawa’s sophomore feature, Su-ki-da. There’s a scene in that film where the two leads, in their teenage incarnations, share their first kiss by a riverbank. It’s a beautifully directed scene which captures the tenderness and the fragility of young love. I bring this up because Drake Doremus’ long distance love story, Like Crazy, essentially takes the idea of young love and runs wild with it, navigating through all its “gory bits” as Felicity Jones’ character, Anna, would describe it. While Ishikawa’s film dealt with his characters’ inability to admit to each other that they love each other, Like Crazy, wants us to know that its characters are very much in love and that their biggest problem is trying to find a way for the two to continue to support their love despite their geographical complications.

The film follows Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones), two college students who fall madly in love with each other only to have their relationship complicated after it is revealed that Anna can no longer visit the United States after overstaying her visa. Further complications beset them during their long distance relationship such as the potential for other lovers as well as their career.

Perhaps the most disarming quality of the film is the fact that it feels embedded in much realism but not to the point where it comes off as being too panache. Director, Drake Doremus’ approach to the film helps add a layer of veracity that doesn’t quite come around as often as you’d like when it comes to films dealing with love and romance. Much of this realism can be attributed to the performances of Yelchin and Jones, both of whom, it seems, improvised much of their dialogue together. As a result, we’re given more natural performances with dialogue that seems much more conversational and comfortable rather than stilted and rehearsed. Coupled with Doremus’ subtle handheld, observational approach in framing the film, these intimate moments between this young couple adds a lot of intimacy and genuineness to the film which may end up hitting a little too close to home for some (the opening scenes where the two essentially have their first date and begin to fall for one another felt especially warm and familiar). It’s almost voyeuristic, which would make sense given that this film’s existence practically owes itself to Doremus’ own experience with a former girlfriend – who was living in Austria – in his youth which makes this film feel all the more personal.

The film doesn’t need to swerve into heavy melodramatics nor does it need to rely on formulaic clichés of the genre to keep the story and its characters interesting to the audience (although as much as I loved the film’s lovely piano-driven score by Dustin O’Halloran, there were times where the cue for it was unnecessary). In a market filled with an abundance of superficial romantic comedies and Nicolas Sparks film adaptations, Like Crazy shines as a mature muse about the immaturity and naivety of young love. It’s a refreshingly surprising film that is rich in subtext and is deeply affecting – just don’t plan on making this your next date movie because it might send all kinds of wrong messages.