Like Crazy (2011)

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The 21st Century, I’ve heard it argued, has effectively killed romance. Its cold, pocket-sized devices – the IPhone for example – have become our sole means of communication. Is it true that people would rather txt their loved one than see them in person? I doubt it, but what’s obvious in the wake of Facebook and Skype is that social interaction has been forever changed. We never have to be out of touch again; webcams allow interaction from opposing sides of the globe. But is that enough? Like Crazy, writer/director Drake Doremus’ third feature in three years, poses this and several other questions in its tale of transatlantic love, which has the structure of a photo album, recording the minutes, hours and years that a young couple spend together and apart. Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin) are separated by thousands of miles, but they long to be reunited; to feel the touch of each others skin, and the affection of their gaze. If 21st Century romance is defined by technology, it’s only to sustain old-fasioned ideals.

Anna is a posh, perky Brit attending college in LA, where she meets and falls for the mumbly furniture fanatic Jacob, an American. She overstays her visa for a summer of whirlwind romance, but after returning home for a wedding she is denied re-entry into the United States. Another question is raised: is their love lasting? If you’ve seen the trailer for Like Crazy I won’t be revealing anything new here. Indeed, set to the gorgeous tones of Stars ‘Dead Hearts’, which also rolls over the end credits, the ad is basically a 2-minute edit of the entire film, poetically chronicling the breakup and reconciliation of the couple’s cross-seas relationship. The first verse of ‘Dead Hearts’ perfectly sums up the film’s themes…

Tell me everything that happened, / Tell me everything you saw. / They had lights inside their eyes… / Did you see the closing window, / Did you hear the slamming door? / They moved forward and my heart died… / Please, please tell me what they looked like, / Did they seem afraid to you? / They were kids that I once knew…

It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, but Like Crazy‘s elliptical structure, beautiful Dustin O’Halloran score and gentle performances make it worth a watch. Jones and Yelchin have fantastic (and natural) chemistry together, and Doremus’ lingering camera often captures truth in their silences. In fact, save for the realisation that they both share an affection for Paul Simon, Anna and Jacob’s first date is largely silent, and doesn’t end on the expected note. Conventionally we’d witness their first kiss, but Doremus has already moved us onto the next sequence, leaving his audience to fill in the gaps. We skip though the first days of their relationship in no more than 10 – 15 minutes (that whirlwind summer is visualized by a quick-cut montage of the couple in bed), lending them the feel of a memory; fondly remembered fragments. But therein lies the film’s biggest problem – the fact that we never really learn about these characters as people, and get a sense of their individual lives. Even when they’re apart Doremus’ treats them as a single entity, with most conversations revolving around Anna’s visa…

Come to think of it, that first date is probably about as deep as the (sparse) dialogue gets. Doremus prefers to build the relationship through images, but the 90-minute running time can’t quite sustain that idea, and most of the conversations lack dramatic weight. With Anna back in the UK Jacob starts a relationship with his secretary, Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), who he treats with complete disregard, and it was a problem that I sympathised with her more than the central protagonist. He’s not cruel to her, but his loyalties and affections clearly lie with Anna, and Sam – who appears incredibly sweet and giving – really gets given a hard time. Even when the couple re-unite they just seem to talk about how hard it is being together (“stopping and starting“) and you begin to wonder if they’re really destined for each other, as is initially suggested. By the end of the film I didn’t really feel like they’d grown, and the ambiguous final shot felt a bit listless.

Just this morning I learn that Paul Simon is planning a tour for 2012. I’ll bet there’ll be loads of Like Crazy fans attending, some of them couples, and maybe they’ll understand what it means to be loved from a distance. I just hope that, beyond the lights inside their eyes, they can find something more to talk about…

Director: Drake Doremus
Writers: Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones
Stars: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones
Runtime: 90 minutes
Country: USA


Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

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