Drake Doremus’ romantic drama Like Crazy might initially strike viewers as yet another self-consciously quirky indie romance; after all, the set-up is most certainly a meet-cute – with English student Anna (Felicity Jones) leaving a sweet note on fellow student Jacob’s (Anton Yelchin) car inviting him for coffee – but this involving, frighteningly honest film lacks the glossy, cloying sheen of many a Hollywood film. Taking a rather non-traditional route for a film of this type, it was in fact picked up for distribution after turning heads at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, and was filmed by Doremus on a paltry $250k budget.
Like Crazy begins as Anna, who is studying abroad in the U.S., gets involved with Jacob, and a whirlwind romance quickly ensues. Problems arise, however, once Anna, while in the throes of the relationship’s honeymoon period, can’t tear herself away from Jacob, and thus decides to outstay her student visa. After returning to the U.K. for a family function, her re-entry to the U.S. is then denied due to her previous visa violation, and as such the rest of the film explores how this snafu comes to tragically define and challenge much of their relationship.
While on the surface Doremus’ film might have a few familiar staples that some may find irritating – the rather pretentious, unsure faux-intellect of the leads, a character trait present in students sitting in seminar rooms all around the world – it is important to remember that Anna and Jacob are young, and don’t quite know who they are yet, as ultimately forms part of the more tragic angle of this bubbling romantic narrative. Though the first Twilight film was meted out a highly qualified measure of praise for capturing the hormonal frenzy of teenage romance, Like Crazy retains this essence with a much more efficient conviction throughout, largely because the performances – played out in scenes that are largely improvised – are so strong, thanks to superb casting of the two leads. Jones and Yelchin get on like a house on fire, and probably do in real life too, one can imagine. As such, it isn’t hard to buy into their hormone-infused romance, which moves speedily along to them spending every moment together and, and then Jacob meeting Anna’s parents.
That their love seems so convincing and relatably consuming makes it easier to believe that Anna would outstay her visa than compared to a more conventionally sterile Hollywood production. After all, that is the nature of all-enveloping feeling; it puts our blinders on to the world and renders us unaware of any real repercussions that would arise. In Anna’s case, she’s probably thinking, “the U.K. and the U.S. are best buds, right”.
Here the sweet romance is stopped dead in its tracks, and it is Anna’s seemingly minuscule, yet unquestionably silly decision to overstay her visa, as is true of many relationships, which creates a much grander obstacle for the two of them to overcome. Anna cannot return to the U.S., and so while she protests the visa ban, it is down to Jacob to visit her in the U.K., something which, with his burgeoning furniture business, is not as logistically simple as one might hope. Here the film leaps off, far away from its sweeter side, to explore the nature of compromise, and how people, no matter how committed, endeavour to juggle life and love, and how beguiling this dynamic can be. Feelings can prevail in spite of what the head is saying, and invariably, difficult relationship situations are always going to seem worse when you see how easy others have it.
It all boils down to an unfortunately naive and silly act which threatens something which, when whittled down to the simple facet of chemistry, is a sure thing. The film aptly asserts how this, tragically, can never be enough, and how chance, circumstance and consequence play so much more into our romantic relationships than we might be willing to admit. It’s a sobering notion and plays through to an agreeably ambiguous, relatively haunting ending for a film of this type, eschewing the sorts of clobbered-together climaxes many schmaltzier, less-honest films would pursue.
Drake Doremus’ beautifully photographed film – shot superbly on Canon’s outstanding EOS 7D prosumer camera – captures more than a few moments that will seem stunningly authentic to just about anyone who has been in a passionate teenage relationship; the little quirks, the awkward moments, the unforgettable highs, and more so, the heart-rending lows. The deeply-felt chemistry between Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin helps Like Crazy to capture the tragic ironies of young love in a diverting, mature, and ultimately heartbreaking manner.
Like Crazy is playing in UK Cinemas now.