The film that made a splash at 2011’s Sundance Film Festival, Like Crazy, is a film so raw and real, you will fall in love with it just as the two main characters fall in love with each other. The director, Drake Doremus, co-wrote the screenplay with Ben York Jones. This independent film is so real because Doremus directed his actors to improvise the majority of their scenes. This technique was a brilliant move, because while a film about a long distance relationship has potential to be cliche, Like Crazy is fresh and brilliantly acted. The film portrays two college students, an American (Jacob) and English girl (Anna), who struggle to make their relationship work despite the distance. As the film progresses, we realize that even though we can love another person like crazy if the situation isn’t right, our love is simply just that: crazy.
The two leads, Anton Yelchin, who plays Jacob, and Felicity Jones, who plays Anna, have such an innocent and powerful chemistry that can only be understand by those who have fallen deeply in love, even when the timing wasn’t right. Of the two, Jones’ performance is stronger, and she earned her Special Jury Prize for her role. From the moment we see Anna in front of her college class presenting a paper she wrote, she makes eyes with Jacob sitting in class, and it is clear from her facial expression that she is infatuated.
Anna is an aspiring writer, and her classmate Jacob is a furniture design major. They are seniors attending a college in Los Angeles, and Anna is an exchange student from England. After class, Anna works up the nerve to leave a love letter (with her phone number) on Jacob’s car windshield. Jacob is flattered, and this leads to their first date at a coffee shop. While walking down the sidewalk afterward, they still have first-date jitters, but the chemistry between them is apparent. Jacob asks Anna if she wants to go somewhere, and she says yes. We do not know where they go, because immediately after that it is nightfall, and Jacob and Anna go up to Anna’s apartment. This film does not need to give us a play-by-play of every moment of Jacob and Anna’s first date because in every moment they are on-screen together, the developing relationship is clear.
While in Anna’s room they drink whiskey and find that they both enjoy Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album. Anna reads a poem she wrote outloud to Jacob, and she is shy and vulnerable. Jacob listens and appreciates her writing, which wins Anna over. She writes him a message and the camera films her writing, “I think you’re…” but the camera cuts to Anna’s face just before she finishes the message. We do not know what Anna and Jacob write back and forth, but we do know from their facial expressions alone that they are falling in love.
The film spans about seven years. Anna and Jacob date for a year before they graduate, when Anna must go back to England for the summer before returning to America. Because she cannot bear to leave Jacob for the summer, she stays in America, violating her visa. She goes back to England for a week, but cannot come back into the U.S. because of the violation. This is the beginning of Jacob and Anna’s struggle to stay together. The distance forces them to start and stop their relationship, and in their time apart, they develop relationships with people in their respective hometowns.
Jennifer Lawrence shines as Sam, Jacob’s work partner and girlfriend when he is not dating Anna. Though Lawrence is a supporting role in Like Crazy, her Oscar-winning acting skills are present. She plays Sam beautifully, proving that this character is not “The Other Woman.” She is someone Jacob genuinely loves. Jacob is torn once he begins dating Sam. He loves Anna, but when he is not with her physically, he realizes that he can have a worthwhile relationship with another woman. Sam does not have much screen time, but Lawrence’s performance stays with the viewer throughout the entire film. She is likeable despite taking Jacob’s attention away from Anna, and the audience feels Sam’s pain because, like Anna, she also loves Jacob.
Anna develops a relationship with her neighbor, Simon. He is handsome but changes Anna’s lifestyle, eliminating her whiskey-drinking and replacing it with exercise and wine. While he makes positive changes in her life, he is not Jacob. It appears that Anna cannot move on as easily as Jacob can, which may hint that Anna loves Jacob more than he loves her.
The beauty of this film is that while the dialogue is minimal, it is meaningful, and the camera work shows the brilliant and genuine facial expressions of the characters and their emotions. Jones is especially wonderful to watch. Every laugh, smile, tear, and frown is a tug at the viewer’s heart strings, allowing us to fall in love with this couple’s relationship and, despite all the odds, hope that love can conquer the distance.
For viewers accustomed to the Hollywood romance films, this will be a change. Like Crazy is simplistic, offering no cliche love montages or unrealistic, overreaching monologues. This young love story is something many viewers may relate to, and it provokes emotions because viewers know the feeling of loving someone unattainable. The emotions Jacob and Anna have are raw, their hope for a successful relationship may at times seem naive, but it’s honest. The end of the film shows Anna and Jacob taking a shower together, and they both have flashbacks in their minds of their budding relationship years ago. They each remember the happy moments when they first met, and it seems that they are wondering, “Are we crazy to stay together?” The end offers no definitive end to their relationship, but there is a hint that this relationship is simply impossible. Anna and Jacob are crazy about each other, and it is indeed crazy for them to be together because they are worlds apart.
Like Crazy is a romance film that is produced delicately. The simplicity of the camera work and improvisation of the dialogue create one of the most believable love stories in film history. It is heartbreaking and frustrating, but that is why is succeeds. Jones and Lawrence especially shine in their roles, allowing viewers to fall in love with the idea of young love. It is fragile, hopeful, and naive, but stays with us for a lifetime.