Like Crazy (2011)

Like Crazy is a sweet, honest love story that feels about as real as one in a movie can. That is to say that we believe in everything about these characters, but there’s still a small level of movie-gloss that we can’t shake. Maybe it’s how otherworldly attractive they all are, or perhaps it’s just because we’re always aware that we’re watching a movie, but for the most part, these are real people who have flaws and strong points just like a normal person.

It helps, I think, that Like Crazy was filmed without a script. All of the dialogue in this film has been made up on the spot, or perhaps in rehearsal sessions. The actors had to think it all up on the spot, drawing on their past relationships, or maybe on the ones they wish they’d had. Whether or not there was a general story arc that director/co-writer Drake Doremus wanted to follow is unknown, but if the actors steered the film in the direction they wanted, they did a fantastic job, even if they do meander a little bit. That’s fine; so do real romances.

The main romance featured in the film is the one between Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones). He’s working on a degree designing furniture, while she’s only in America for school, and per the restrictions on her student visa, has to leave as soon as school is over. They become a couple soon after their initial meeting, and, after overstaying her visa, Anna finds herself back in England, unable to travel to America to meet her love. Much of the rest of the film deals with their struggles while apart, as well as the attempts to bring her to the United States.

This is a film that details every up and down that this relationship faces, and shows us each moment in great depth. We focus more on the negative than the positive, which might feel emotionally manipulative to some, but because we get to know these characters so well and they feel so real, that thought never crossed my mind while watching it. I just wanted to see everything work out for the best, although what was the best was something I couldn’t figure out for the majority of its running time.

Each of those two characters, while separated, enters a relationship with another person. For Jacob, it’s his assistant for the furniture company he works at, Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), while for Anna, it’s a neighbor, Simon (Charlie Bewley). Of course, each of the two leads doesn’t tell the other, at least, not right away, and there’s some genuine tension whenever one of them gets suspicious because you’re not sure if you want the reveal to happen, or if you’d prefer to see the secrecy prevail.

Like Crazy is an emotionally troublesome movie on a few levels. For one, you’re never sure what exactly you want for these characters, and that makes you feel torn for a lot of the picture. The film wants you to focus on the pair’s relationships, as it’s given the most time and feels the most genuine — not to mention that whenever Anna’s parents appear, they take far more to Jacob than to Simon — but it doesn’t paint the side-relationships in a negative light and with all the ups and downs in the main one, can you really be sure what’s best? I couldn’t be, which led to a somewhat difficult watch.

The times when the movie is sweet definitely make up for the points when it’s down on itself, as they feel rewarding just seeing these characters finally be happy, if only for a brief moment. Their irrationality is frequently to blame for the negative points, but then, humans act irrationally often and their mistakes are at least their own downfall. It’s not someone else that separates them; they’re behind it and have to deal with the consequences of their decisions.

You can get the impression at times that you’re watching a documentary when watching Like Crazy. The handheld camera, the clear improvisation — sometimes there are even line flubs quickly corrected that are left in — it all helps add to the authenticity of the production. If it weren’t for the somewhat recognizable names that you’ll see as you watch it (each actor has been in a couple of films you might have seen), you might think it was all for real.

The success of a movie like this one is based on its actors, and it’s a good thing that the filmmakers hired good ones. Felicity Jones is the breakout star here. A relative unknown to many American audience members, she shows herself to be an expressive actor whose facial expression can break your heart if it wants to. Anton Yelchin is more of a known name, but shows off a sensitive side after appearing in blockbusters like Terminator Salvation and Star Trek — and also marks the second film in 2011 in which he has a relationship with a character played by the Oscar-nominated Jennifer Lawrence.

Like Crazy is a very emotionally taxing film if you get drawn in. I have to say that I was; the almost documentary style and strong cast made me feel like everything in the film was truly happening. Once I was fully engaged, nothing but the end credits could take me out. It’s a sweet movie that always feels real, detailing the ups and downs of a relationship, always making you question what the best result would be for its characters. After watching, I’m still not sure.

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