Film Review – Like Crazy
We always want love to overcome all, in our books, our television, and, especially, our films. So, it is rare thing when a movie comes along and truly examines that idea without being cynical and cruel, but with an approach that simply asks us to see what challenges love can face and how people really deal with it.
In Like Crazy, Anna (Felicity Jones), a British exchange student, falls in love with American student Jacob (Anton Yelchin). During the summer, Anna overstays her visa and cannot get back into the United States. So starts a long distance relationship, with trying to get together, worries that it cannot work, and even dating other people.
At the start, we get a montage of images of their time together to get a sense of their relationship, but they also do have a natural chemistry. They are both attractive and creative people (she is a writer, he is a furniture designer), so early on we get a sense of the appeal. We see that Anna is the stronger one in the relationship; she takes the initiative to get the relationship going and pushes things more. Jacob is a bit more passive, but if prompted by the woman he loves, he will commit to her ideas.
We see both of them trying to date other people and to move on the best they can, and, refreshingly, the other significant others are not obviously wrong for them. (Special props to Jennifer Lawrence as Jacob’s girlfriend; after Winter’s Bone she has been given a lot of lead performances in bigger movies, but seeing her in this supporting role in such a small movie gives me hope that she will still do smaller films and keeps trying different roles.) These relationships are taken just as seriously as Jacob’s and Anna’s relationship, and are not just tacked on for drama. Heartache is felt by all four of them, knowing what they do about their partners. The new love interests are good, caring people and are not wrong for Anna and Jacob, but it is hard for them to make it work.
While both Jones and Yelchin are great, Jones gets the meatier role here. By being the more forceful one, we get much more of her reactions, and her personality comes out more fully. There has been some early Oscar buzz for her performance, and it is well deserved. This isn’t a flashy role; she is a normal girl, with cute quirks that make her endearing and real, in a situation that is less than ideal. She expresses a great deal in her eyes and face, especially when things are not going the way she wants. We feel her pain and confusion.
One of the most telling moments is when she is supposed to go back to England, and Jacob shoots down the idea of coming over. He isn’t being cruel, he just thinks that they will see each other soon and that it would be too much of a hassle. She is more nervous about losing him over that time and feels hurt at the way he dismisses the idea.
This is all told through body language, and much of the film is more about the screentime together than the dialogue, which works very well, even though there are times that you wonder why we do not hear more conversations between the two about the long distance situations. (Especially about why Jacob cannot just move to London, which is brought up but abandoned just as quickly with no clear reason.) Beyond that, this is one of the strongest movies about the complexity of relationships since last year’s Blue Valentine, though this movie is in many ways a stronger film. In Blue Valentine, it is a forgone conclusion what will happen to their relationship; we are shown from the start that they are not right for each other and how the animosity will build up between them. In Like Crazy,the two leads are perfect for each other, but life keeps getting in the way and there is a lot more ambiguity about what will happen to them. This made the relationship more interesting, because we got to see what time and distance can do to even the most strong of couples and that love cannot conquer all. That is not to say that the film is completely about losing love; it is a back and forth. We have the cute-couple bits that give Anna’s and Jacob’s love real weight, and then the scenes of arguments about what has been going wrong. At a stark 90 minutes, the film feels like it covers a lot of ground in a very short time and gives us a lot to think about. We delight in their love, hurt when they hurt, and get to wonder what is really best for them.
Final Grade: A-