Like Crazy (2011)

30 Jan

Like Crazy

Late last year Like Crazy whipped up a whirlwind of hype after bagging the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Film and Special Jury Prize: Dramatic Acting for young Brit star Felicity Jones at Sundance. Well, the hype is certainly warranted, because Like Crazy is one of the cinematic highlights of the past year.

Director and scribe Drake Doremus’ tale of young lovers divided by an ocean is one of those surprising, warming films that lives and dies by its ability to utterly convince its audience that what they’re seeing is authentic. Perhaps Doremus succeeds where he might easily have failed because, if rumours are to be believed, it’s fiercely autobiographical.

Anna (a waspish Felicity Jones), an English girl studying in LA, falls for classmate and furniture maker Jacob (Anton Yelchin). They soon embark on what seems to be an ultimately ill-fated love affair given Anna must return to England at the end of the academic year, but they don’t let that get in the way of the burgeoning love in the meantime.

Jones and Yelchin do a marvellous job of capturing the awkwardness of the initial stages of a relationship, as they flirt, talk and bounce off each other in a veritable playground of mutual attraction. Doremus’ sparse directorial style and improvisational script emphasises the natural, evolutionary feel of the early throes of their relationship adding a sense of credibility and innocence to proceedings.

Like Crazy 2

By the time Anna’s stint in the US is up, she and Jacob are in what feels like deep and real love, such is the brilliance of Yelchin and in particular Jones in conveying raw and fiercely emotional desire for each other. So it’s no surprise that she overstays her visa to spend the summer with her lover, a decision that will have far-reaching effects on their relationship. As it is, Anna returns home, only to be denied re-entry to the US for violating the terms of her visa.

Helpless to overcome the insurmountable obstacles (US customs and the Atlantic Ocean no less), Anna and Jacob are forced to get on with their lives. Anna lands a plum job at a magazine, whilst Jacob’s furniture making business takes off. Yet there remains a deep void in both their lives and the pain of separation eats away at them both.

When Jacob does eventually manage to visit, Doremus uses long knowing looks and what is actually left unsaid to imply that Anna and Jacob are all too aware of the stark reality that separation has forced them to live their own lives. Jacob in particular is insular and detached, feeling far removed from Anna’s blossoming social and professional life. A visit to Anna’s parents (Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead in a splendid comedic turn), proposes an obvious solution to their dilemma, but Jacob returns to LA nonetheless.

New lovers (Jennifer Lawrence and Charlie Bewley) come into their lives and significant cracks appear in Anna and Jacob’s relationship, but such is the intensity of their love for each other that there remains an unavoidable connection that they just can’t ignore. That said, there’s a sense that Anna and Jacob are from two very different worlds and that the separation that comes to define the basis of their relationship highlights its inherent flaws. It’s a love based on the romance of ‘forbidden’ love and once those obstacles are effectively removed, what really remains?

Given the problems that Anna and Jacob encounter, Doremus ensures that the denouement is never entirely certain, but the journey that he takes us on to get there is stirring, life affirming, heartbreaking and quite simply magnificent.

(originally featured at www.lostinthemultiplex.com)

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