You know the story, boy meets girl….
It’s a tale as old a time, boy meets girl, they fall in love it’s all picture postcard, golden sunsets and birds singing before your visa runs out and you have to return home broken hearted and hating the world. It would be easy to dismiss Like Crazy as just another romantic drama but thanks to two heartfelt central performances and delicate direction this particular romance manages to rise above the froth, for the most part, to become some warm and easy to invest in.
Anna (Felicty Jones) is an English girl studying in Los Angeles. There she meets Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and the two fall hopelessly in love. But when Anna has to return home for the summer they cannot bring themselves to part ways. Instead Anna and Jacob spend the summer lying in bed together before she eventually returns home for a wedding. A week later she is refused entry back into the US for ignoring the criteria of her previous visa. Stuck on opposite sides of the globe Anna and Jacob drift apart, finding new love in various guises, including the nymph-like Sam (Jennifer Lawrence). But they are never far from each other’s thoughts.
The most striking thing about Like Crazy is how honest and accurate it portrays the early moments of a young relationship. Those tentative first steps as you’re trying to gauge the others emotions towards you while understanding your own at the same time. The hushed voices, wayward glances and bashful giggles may, at first, seem cringe-worthy but it becomes clear you’re feeling that way because you know at some point in your life you have behaved exactly as Anna and Jacob do.
Director Drake Doremus shoots everything with a roving, cinema verite style. The result allows us to feel part of Anna and Jacob’s intimacy. At times it can feel voyeuristic, but for the most part you are allowed to bask in the golden light that bathes the ‘honeymoon’ period of any relationship. Towards the second half, when things become more complicated for the couple the colour pallet, aided by a location switch to England, becomes more cold, whites and light blues replace the previous warm yellows.
Where the film slightly falters is in the drama of keeping Anna and Jacob apart. Yes long distance relationships are hard, we get that, but at times the pair teeter on the edge of going all Twilight mopey on us. A hint of ‘woe is me’ enters the film. Of course having the delectable Jennifer Lawrence as your ‘rebound’ girlfriend does not lend itself to sparking swathes of sympathy from any audience.
Lawrence is on typically brilliant form and, though her part is fleeting, when she is on screen she threatens to steal the film away from the leads. Thankfully Yelchin and Jones are also on career best form. Yelchin, known as Star Trek’s Chekov, has been etching out an impressive but understated resume. The more mainstream films of Fright NightTerminator Salvation have not done him any favours, but he was the best thing in Mel Gibson starrer The Beaver (alongside Lawrence, again) and Charlie Bartlett is a film worth seeking out. Here he is wonderfully awkward to begin with. He is the serious incarnation of the Michael Cera geek-chic. As the relationship progresses so Yelchin’s performance grows and matures making him the most absorbing character on screen. Jones shows why she is fast becoming one of England’s most in demand exports. With her deer-eyes gaze and innocent tone she is the quintessential English rose. Yes Anna can be a little self indulgent but Jones manages to give her small quirks, the occasional flicker of emotion where others would simply forgo, that make her endlessly endearing.
When it isn’t feeling sorry for itself Like Crazy is achingly honest and painfully adorable. Rarely do films capture the beats of a relationship as well as this film and as such it will both warm and crush your heart.