Like Crazy tells the story of Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin), two college students who start dating as graduation nears and eventually come to discover that they love each other “like crazy.” Unfortunately, U.S. immigration officials don’t care how much they love each other and when the British Anna overstays on her visa, she is promptly sent back home and told that she cannot reenter the U.S. While Anna continues to pursue her literary career in England, Jacob runs a succesful design business in America. Anna and Jacob struggle to maintain their long distance relationship, even while both of them are tempted by others (played quite well by Jennifer Lawrence and Charlie Brewley, both of whom give nuanced performances that make their characters into more than just romantic complications).
While the plot might sound like the formula for your standard romcom, Like Crazy is actually a surprisingly mature and realistic film that also manages to be gloriously romantic and just a little sad (yes, Lisa cried a lot). You really come to care about not only about Jacob and Anna but you also come to feel less like your watching a movie and instead like you’re literally eavesdropping on real life. This is director Drake Doremus’s third film and his work here is almost like a blue print of how to make a film like this work. When the film starts, his hand-held cameras is jittery and nervous, reflecting the rush of hope and fear that we all feel at the beginning of a new relationship. As the film progresses, Doremus’s camera also calms down and it makes it impossible for us to look away, even when it almost feels as if we’ve intruded too far on the lives and feelings of our two lovers.
Doremus is helped by the fact that his two lovers are perfectly cast and totally believable and likable delivering dialogue that was reportedly improvised during filming. I’ve seen Anton Yelchin in a few films but this is the first time that he ever truly impressed me as an actor. One need only compare his vulnerable performance here to his more showy (and less effective) performance in The Beaver to see just how much Yelchin benefits from the improvised nature of Doremus’s film. As Anna, Felicity Jones proves that a previously unknown actress doesn’t need a gimmick (like a dragon tattoo) to give a breakthrough performance. Yelchin and Jones have a very real chemistry and you sincerely care about them.
The end result is a wonderful film that deserves to be seen. Like Crazy was one of the best films of 2011 and it’s a shame that it’s being overshadowed a bit by the bigger, more traditional films that have been released at the end of the year.