Despite some issues with its structure and choice of focus, Like Crazy is yet and still one of the best modern day love stories to come along in the last few years.
In Like Crazy, director Drake Doremus attempts to chronicle the struggle of one young couple’s romance – a love they try to preserve across the span of years, geographic distance, as well as through personal and professional changes. The film posits a simple question: Can something as sincere and bright and fragile as true love survive the tortuous road of life?
Anna (Felicity Jones) is a bright and fiery young writer in her last year of college in Los Angeles. It’s there that she meets Jacob (Anton Yelchin), a quiet and shy young carpenter studying furniture design. Modern times being what they are it’s Anna who makes the first move, writing a love letter to Jacob inviting him out on a date, where the two find they have an instant, undeniable and passionate connection. Their love is carefree and strong until reality inevitably intervenes: after graduation Anna’s student visa will expire, and she’ll be forced to return home to London. The thought of separating tears at both young lovers’ hearts, until Anna makes a bold decision: she’ll ignore the mandates of her visa and instead spend a joyous summer in Jacob’s arms.
The summer couldn’t be happier for the couple, and when Anna finally returns to London, it’s on the assumption that it will only be brief absence. However, the powers that be don’t take the issue of visa violation lightly, and Anna and Jacob soon find themselves in a nightmare of immigration laws and bureaucratic entanglements, as they fight desperately to stay connected with one another. This battle for love spans several years as Anna and Jacob both grow and change and come together and drift apart – try to find love elsewhere only to struggle with the inescapable magnetism of true love.
Like Crazy is bolstered by the fantastic performances of its two young leads. The chemistry between Jones and Yelchin is understated, yet nonetheless powerful and engaging to watch. The pair communicate volumes of thought and emotion in the simplest looks, gestures, and smiles; the connection between Anna and Jacob feels genuine and organic and almost always logical in the way it develops and turns. Of the pair, it’s Jones who stands out the most, playing a nicely updated version of the damsel in love; the film as a whole offers us characters who are refreshingly modern spins on classic romance movie gender roles and tropes. This is a very timely love story.
However, while the characters themselves are strong points, the pacing and story structure of Like Crazy (co-written by Doremus’ and his frequent collaborator, Ben York Jones), is likely to be off-putting to some viewers. The film is an exploration of specific moments over the course of a long and winding relationship; the jumps in time between one scene and another can be a bit jarring, even though Doremus does try to transition the viewer smoothly via technical tricks like montage or sped-up footage. Still, there are several points in the film where one intimate or emotionally intense scene gives way to a new time and completely new circumstances for the characters, and Doremus and Jones are not always successful in preserving the narrative or thematic through-lines they want the viewer to follow.
These interruptions are especially noticeable in the storylines for supporting characters like Samantha (Jennifer Lawrence) and Simon (Charlie Bewley) – two people that Jacob and Anna respectively become entangled with as they struggle with their own relationship. The moments of Sam and Simon coming in and out of sight highlight the kind of drastic changes that the viewer is asked to accept suddenly and with little warning, and also highlight the second problem of the filmmakers’ narrative approach: focus.
In this film, the love between Anna and Jacob is almost more of a character than the lovers themselves, in the sense that all we ever see are the moments where their love shines, or resurfaces (for better or worse), is dented by another hardship or healed by reconnection. Obviously the film is about Jacob and Anna’s interactions – and tonally this film is very understated, often relying on inference and subtlety – but given the weight of certain subplots and secondary characters, there are some important moments that the viewer is never granted insight into. Through its hopscotch structure, Like Crazy asks us to simply accept that certain changes to circumstance or the characters have occurred, without letting us see the pivotal moments when said characters made their decisions, or why.
This issue becomes even more prominent in the final unceremonious moments of the film, which will certainly leave some viewers confused about the proverbial ‘point of it all,’ while others are discouraged altogether. It’s a shame, because the subtly with which Doremus and Jones craft their story makes the ending of Like Crazy an earnest and insightful comment on the nature of love. And given the talents of the two actors conveying the tale, it would have been easy – enriching even – to mark some additional key moments along the journey, which would’ve made the destination that more satisfying and resonant.
Despite some issues with its structure and choice of focus, Like Crazy is yet and still one of the best modern day love stories to come along in the last few years. A must-see for anyone who can relate to the idea of life getting in the way of love (i.e., just about all of us).
Check out the trailer for the film below:
Like Crazy is now playing in theaters.
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