Like Crazy

  • Year:2011
  • Rating:M
  • Director:Drake Doremus
  • Cast:Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Anton Yelchin
  • Release Date:March 01, 2012
  • Distributor:Paramount
  • Running time:90 minutes
  • Film Worth:$17.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

A wonderfully tender but bruising account of a young love gone right and wrong – one that’s irresistible and heartbreaking all at once.

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Seemingly sneaking up out of nowhere and snagging the Grand Jury Prize at 2011's Sundance Film Festival, Like Crazy is the latest entry in a recent trend of bittersweet semi-realistic romances that include the recently released Weekend and last year's critical darling, Blue Valentine. At their core, these films attempt to do something precarious: reveal both the overwhelming power of first love and its absolute fragility. From the outset, Like Crazy may seem the most lightweight of the trio, but make no mistake: it's just as tough-minded and quietly devastatingly as its counterparts. 

Like Crazy's central pair - Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin) - meet as college students at UCLA. He's studying furniture design and she, originally from the UK, aspires to be a writer. The two fall hard and fast for one another, but Anna's visa is only good until graduation, and when the inevitable moment comes that the two have to part, she pushes it to stay for the rest of the summer. A smitten Jacob doesn't put up much of a fight. It's a decision that comes back to haunt them - for the next half a decade in fact - as Anna is not allowed back in the US due to the violation, and the pair are left to embark on an often painful long distance affair marked by missed phone calls, arguments, legal struggles, and blissful but tearful reunions.

The fourth film for 28-year-old director Drake Doremus (whose previous works - 2010's Douchebag, 2009's Spooner and 2005's Moonpie - have all been loosely styled comedy dramas), Like Crazy was apparently largely drawn from the filmmaker's own personal history. As with his previous films, his latest relies heavily on improvisation, with Doremus providing a fifty-page "outline" to his two young stars, and then calling upon them to fill in the dialogue. It's a risky move that could have seen the film easily devolve into self-conscious mumblecore, but in the hands of these two rising stars, it pays major dividends.

The conversation is often unsophisticated and unremarkable - a far cry from the endlessly witty Before Sunset-style dialogue that the film's twenty-something-American-meets-twenty-something-Euro premise might suggest - but it rings awkwardly and often painfully true. And Doremus has the sense to let his camera capture these actors in broad strokes, zeroing in on who they are in a moment rather than who he could make them in the editing room. As the quietly serious Jacob, Yelchin (probably still best known for his role in the Star Trek reboot, but who also recently impressed in The Beaver) is the more understated of the two, but he finds both his character's burrowed anguish and softness. Jones (whose credits include roles in The Tempest, Brideshead Revisited and last year's Chalet Girl) is a small revelation as Anna, lacing her with a steeliness and selfishness, but also a madly loveable spirit that pulls you in and doesn't let go.

Somewhat surprisingly given the preference for naturalism on display here, Doremus has made quite a polished and inventive piece of filmmaking. For the most part, there's a lyricism and seamlessness to the way that the director sashays between time and across continents. It's unfortunate then that Doremus occasionally gives in to gimmicky techniques to show the passing of time, including a couple of montage sequences that appear snatched from a music video. Instead, Doremus best illustrates the alternating closeness and distance felt by the characters via smaller, intimate moments. One such scene is when a late night phone call leads a tearful Anna to joke that Jacob, sitting in a lonely pub on the other side of the globe, should drop by her place. It's a poignant and irresistible moment that aims straight for the heart, seemingly without trying.

In following their romance over five years, it becomes clear that what continues to bond Anna and Jacob is their mutual infatuation with a brief period of time where they fell deeply in love, and the majority of the film sees the pair trying to navigate their way back to that moment. Always hovering above though is a handful of tough questions: Was that fleeting time enough to sustain what they have to sacrifice to be together? And in the end, is it even worth it? How much disappointment and how many setbacks can two young lovers endure before something is lost? Beautifully capturing the thrill and immediacy of first love, Doremus also reveals the way that it can stubbornly hold us back from moving forward with our lives. In the film, we watch as both parties spark promising relationships with new people - Jacob with his smitten office assistant (a lovely Jennifer Lawrence) and Anna with her equally love-struck neighbour (Charlie Bewley) - yet neither is able to completely surrender themselves.

Passionately but tenderly portraying a young love gone right and wrong, Doremus shrouds this film and particularly its ending with the perfect level of ambiguity so that the question of whether Anna and Jacob can bridge the distance between them - in every sense of the word - becomes just as much about who we are. Are you a romantic or a realist? Like Crazy is the rare romantic drama made for both.

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