I waited for this movie for the longest time. It’s been almost a year since I first heard about the tiny indie film that stole the heart of the Sundance Film Festival. It finally came to the arthouse cinema that I frequent during the winter in hopes of catching a few of the future Oscar nominees.
New York Magazine’s Vulture called it Blue Valentine Lite, which is about the most depressing label you could ever give a film. For those out there who have seen Blue Valentine, Like Crazy is a far cry from the tale of an unraveling marriage. It’s also much more relatable.
Anna (Felicity Jones) is British but studying in the United States when she meets and falls in love with Jacob (Anton Yelchin). Not willing to spend the summer after graduation apart, she violates her student visa and is therefore banned from the United States. So begins the on again, off again story of two kids just trying to figure out who they are and how their connection is really supposed to fit into their life.
The story behind this film is that a lot of it is improvised. Director Drake Doremus gives the young actors parameters for the scene, but much of it was them interacting with each other naturally. There are whole scenes that will strike you as ordinary. This isn’t Aaron Sorkin dialogue. It’s not witty or smart or planned–but it is real. And realness is what Like Crazy strives for.
The camera is hand held, and some of the shots break the norm. Doremus keeps the two actors in separate frames whenever possible. Even when they’re sitting at the same table, Doremus makes sure they are apart.
The direction and the dialogue aren’t what makes this film, however. It’s the performances that drive the concept of young love. Jones, Yelchin, and Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence sell the youth of their characters. That includes love and freedom, but also the immaturity that can drive you “crazy” and eat away at your insecurities.
The connection between the two is undeniably real. But the end leaves them empty, looking back instead of forward, even more unsure of who they were than in the beginning. Jacob has held onto a bottle of scotch for years, waiting to share it with Anna, but when she finally arrives, scotch isn’t to her liking anymore.
Everything about Like Crazy is authentic, understated, heartbreaking. As a viewer, you connect the dots with your own heartbreak. Its lack of strong direction or real dialogue is probably what is keeping it out of all Oscar talk and predictions, but that only makes it a different kind of film. It is more along the lines of Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere last year. It isn’t Academy Awards fodder, but it is something breathtaking.