Title: Like Crazy
Director: Drake Doremus
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston, Chris Messina, Ben York Jones, Oliver Muirhead
The Grand Jury Prize winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the achingly well constructed “Like Crazy” is an evocative coming-of-age romance that pointedly sidesteps the Hollywood contrivances of so many relationship movies, and instead delivers a portrait of sincere young love that is perhaps not meant to last forever. Perceptive, and told with style but not unnecessary flash by director Drake Doremus, the film is well acted all around, but is anchored by a breakout performance from Felicity Jones.
The story opens in Los Angeles, where design student Jacob (Anton Yelchin) meets Anna (Felicity Jones), a British exchange student. The two tumble into a relationship and, caught up in the undertow of their burgeoning infatuation, Anna decides to make the decision to overstay her visa and spend the ensuing summer with Jacob. After she finally does return home, for her sister’s wedding, the aforementioned act causes her problems with re-entry to the United States, and she’s turned away and sent back to the United Kingdom. Jacob visits her there, meets her family, and the pair decide to keep their romance going long-distance. For a while this works, but eventually the strain starts to take its toll. While Jacob opens a successful furniture store and passes time with Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), Anna also finds herself the object of attention of a prospective suitor, Mike (Chris Messina).
“Like Crazy” should appeal to fans of tender and/or heartbreaking romances and character studies, but also those who looked at recent films like “(500) Days of Summer” and “Blue Valentine,” and appreciated that those movies — while very different, tonally — were basically attempting to wring engagement out of the honest embrace of the notion that love frequently has a specific shelf-life. Most mainstream Hollywood studio comedies peddle pat, “happily-ever-after” fantasies, while most dramas of familial dissolution (a rare breed to begin with) aren’t interested in exploring how things for a time went right. “Like Crazy” puts its arms around the whole-bodied complexities of life, and charts the course of its relationship in exceedingly honest strokes. There’s a hormonal element to it, yes, but the film isn’t expressly sexual, and the nature of Jacob and Anna’s connection isn’t solely about in-the-sack action. This makes its philandering and natural emotional drift that much more poignant and impactful.
Doremus’ previous film, “Spooner,” was an overly precious, thinly imagined mumblecore-type love story centered around a guy, played by Matthew Lillard, whose life has basically failed to launch, personally and professionally. Everything that felt fuzzy and undefined about the ambivalence of young adulthood in that movie, though, feels at once delicate and keenly observed in “Like Crazy,” which is marked by a deeper artistic resonance.
The film’s performances — which netted a special, separate Grand Jury prize for acting at Sundance — certainly have a lot to do with that. Yelchin and Jones display a crackerjack chemistry, playful and at once uncertain and open-hearted in all the ways that first love is. More unknown to American audiences, Jones (“The Tempest”) is in particular striking; as “An Education” was for Carey Mulligan, so “Like Crazy” is for her — a finely shaded and heartbreaking coming-out party, and the arrival of a major young talent.
Written by: Brent Simon