(Paramount Vintage) The dramatic shift of emotions that comes with your first love is deftly portrayed in the Sundance award-winning film, Like Crazy, starring young stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. The classic boy-meets-girl narrative, although sweet, is not as important as the movie's characters. Acutely aware of the millennial generation’s plights, Like Crazy is a genuine, beautifully composed film that avoids the artificial clichés of its genre.
The story is told in brief vignettes and stolen moments, beginning with the couple’s courtship in Los Angeles. Anna (Felicity Jones) is an emotive writer from London, studying at UCLA. Her eyes linger on Jacob (Anton Yelchin), a quiet furniture design major, and she leaves him a breathless letter confessing her adoration, concluding, “Please don’t think I’m a nutcase.” They fall fast and they fall hard. We are privy to that elusive beginning of a relationship: whispered conversations under the blankets, the ever-popular Santa Monica pier for first kisses near the water. The sweetness almost stings for anyone who has experienced the exhilaration of those firsts, as they never last forever.
The two spend their summer after graduation in bed, depressed and in denial of the pending separation. Anna overstays her VISA to prolong her time with Jacob, unknowingly driving a wedge between them. She returns home to London for a wedding, only to be denied access to the US at customs. Without ever reaching Jacob (and a tragic bouquet), Anna is sent back home and the two must begin their lives without one another.
Jacob, though much more subdued in his affection than Anna, struggles to salvage the relationship despite the distance. Their predicament will likely strike a chord with twenty-somethings (such as myself), as Jacob and Anna each thrive in their careers on separate continents. With jobs so difficult to come by, especially in one’s chosen field, there is this crippling sensation that opportunities must be taken, whatever the cost.
Through the years, Jacob and Anna weave through each other’s lives and find themselves unable, despite other loves (Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley), to let go. Their heartbreak is palpable, and where other films might veer off track into, as Anton Yelchin put it, “saccharine” territory, Like Crazy explores familiar themes with a refreshing honesty. Shot with one camera in a little over a month, the film contrasts jarringly intimate close-ups of the pair with bustling, disconnected cities as the two grow further apart.
One of the more striking aspects of Like Crazy is the way it was filmed. Director Drake Doremus drafted a 50-page outline of the characters and story, and encouraged Yelchin and Jones to improvise many of their scenes. He whittled a staggering amount of footage (about 80 hours) down to the hour-and-a-half finished product, full of seamlessly spliced-together moments that make up a relationship.
Both the young actors portray authentic characters in love with impeccable chemistry. Anton Yelchin has already established himself in a multitude of roles, from snarky teens (Charlie Barlett, Fright Night) to an iconic Russian in a star fleet (Star Trek), but Felicity Jones’ sheer presence in this film will certainly propel her into the spotlight. Like Crazy is both a joy and heartbreaking to watch, with a gorgeous Paul Simon-inspired soundtrack to get you in that nostalgic mood. For anyone who has ever dealt with the fragility of love (everyone), this film will make you wistful for those early, fleeting days.
For Fans Of: Blue Valentine, Igby Goes Down, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Why We Like It: Anton Yelchin, London, Young Love
'Like Crazy' is in limited U.S. release.