Directed by Drake Doremus
Starring Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, and Jennifer Lawrence
Like Crazy is perhaps one of the most ill-fitting titles for a film. When I first heard of the movie, I cringed a little inside and vowed that I’d box that title away into a corner of my mind and hopefully never touch it again. The title, coupled with the two young leading actors and a been-there-done-that long-distance sob story, seemed to reek of adolescent angst. Dubiously eyeing Yelchin’s peach fuzz, I scoffed and thought to myself, What would this high school movie know about love?
After being roped into watching it at Kendall Square Cinema and almost bawling my eyes out towards the last one-third of the movie, I guess they knew quite a lot. The subject of the film is simple but so dear and familiar it is almost comforting. Long-distance relationships — or rather, the slow and painfully tender deterioration of a long-distance relationship.
The notion of mad love, or amour fous is not novel. The French coined the term, attempting to find a fitting name for illogical passionate love. The love described in Like Crazy is, however, not that sort of love. Sure, the beginning of the relationship is rose-tinted but cloying and sweet at best, a far cry from the illogical and passionate myths of the past. What is mad, and crazy, are the circumstances into which they are thrown. British visiting student Anna (Jones) meets an American boy Jacob (Yelchin), falls in love, overstays her visa, then becomes barred from the United States by the nasty immigration police. The rest of the film follows them over the passage of the next few years as they struggle with being apart and living their separate lives while still attempting to be connected.
What is so powerful about the film is the gritty realism of it all. Yes, the situation may not seem dramatic or earth-shattering, but it’s very tangible. The focus of the film is the disintegration of the relationship as the main duo have to overcome trust issues, work pressures, and the distance of thousands of miles. The whole film was shot with a handheld digital — a Canon EOS 7D DSLR — which adds to the realistic effect. The soundtrack usually consists of instrumentals with sparse or barely heard lyrics and the shots mostly focus on expressions, eyes, and faces. The many scenes of pedestrian imagery and tracking of movement pay homage to the French New Wave.
Despite the youthful casting — Yelchin is an ’89er and surprisingly, Jones is actually an ’83er — this film is not light-hearted Friday night fare. It’s a coming-of-age story blended with drama, the heartbreaking reality of time, and the lessons of time on people. There is no glamorization of young romance but rather the hard truths and raw emotions. Both Yelchin and Jones interact marvelously together from tender bedside scenes to shouting matches in the kitchen. The director, Doremus, revealed later in an interview that many dialogues were improvised: while the scenes were scripted to be shot a certain way, the two main leads had freedom with bringing the scenes alive.
The film is heavy on the heart but not altogether depressing. Although while leaving the theater, I spied many a couple who were probably expecting a melodramatic romantic comedy, I would suggest avoiding watching the film with a significant other, especially if long-distance status is in the near future. The film may be too realistic for comfort.