Every year Sundance produces a few mesmerizing indie gems.  Last year, it was the gritty romance about love long gone, Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. This year, Sundance critics went wide-eyed over newcomer Drake Doremus’ tale of love through ocean-wide divides, Like Crazy.

      Like Crazy stars young ingénues Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin as Anna and Jacob.  They’re two university kids who meet in an old-fashioned fashion.  She is a British exchange student, doing a major in Journalism in the U.S. He is from the States, majoring in Furniture Design, and is the teacher’s assistant in one of her courses.  After her compelling presentation on the effects of social networking and mass media, and a few stolen looks, Anna sticks a love letter under the windscreen wipers of Jacob’s car.  He calls her back and what ensues is one awkward date of shy laughter, dimpled smiles, and small talk.  “My father died when I was 10,” says Jacob when the parent topic is brought up. “Oh. That’s shitty,” says Anna.  “Yeah. It’s very shitty.”

      Love is young and blind for awhile, and the only consequence for violating one’s student visa is to “spend the summer in bed.” However, when Anna tries to come back to the States after a short visit to the UK, she is refused access into the country.

      In the next seven years, Jacob and Anna’s relationship has to adapt, going from the physical to the disembodied. Glowing cell-phone screens meet hesitant faces and are kept company by inadequate telephone calls. A schedule of ‘I’ll call you at 9, which is x o’clock for you’ has to be discussed. Questions about the future are constantly contemplated. “Should we see other people when we’re not together?” “Should we get married to lift the ban on the student visa?” “Would you come live in the UK?” Their relationship becomes like a squeaky door – while it’s possible to fix it, they’re at a loss as to how they should repair the hinges that hold it together.

      What makes Like Crazy so endearing is the gripping realism of the communication between Anna and Jacob.  Their love is embraced by awkwardness, the kind of sweet awkwardness you want to be a part of. You can’t help but laugh when Jacob gifts Anna a wooden chair which he made himself, “his first,” so that she can write in it. Jones and Yelchin give tour-de-force performances, and their work was deeply grounded in improvisation, which says a lot about the young actors’ chemistry and talent. Jones especially quickly became a Sundance favourite.  Her work in the film is honest and emotional enough to break your heart – a testament to her calling as an actress.

      Overall, Like Crazy is a movie made in hipster heaven.  A mosaic of shots of Jacob and Anna lying in bed in different positions is evocative of a really cool underwear ad. The soundtrack is minimal, the conversations improvised and believable.  Director Drake Doremus succeeds in capturing the drooping emotional stagnation of two lovers separated by an ocean of water, and connected by an ocean of miscommunication.

      However, the film fails to explore this puzzle of love and loss in more depth.  It is rich in small evocative moments, but it misses the big picture. There is a certain melancholy about it that ought to have been drilled on to really make the strain of the relationship hit a chord. The story lacks the emotional depth that it could have reached.  Anna and Jacob are two grown-up kids in love, not two young adults trying to make a fragile relationship stay intact.  Like Crazy is more of a smudgy affair of feelings being smashed into evocative close ups of faces full of expression.  The result, however, is not necessarily a bad one. Just like the characters in the film, you are left numb and unsatisfied, but somehow affected in some inexplicable way.

3/5

By Radina Papukchieva

Follow me on twitter @Papukchieva

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About Radina Papukchieva

Radina Papukchieva came to live in, be consumed by, and love Montreal in 2003 from Bulgaria, with her mother and little sister. She is still a semester away from graduating from Concordia University, where she is doing a double major in journalism and communication and cultural studies, as well as a minor in film studies. Her interests include film, TV, and popular culture. And Woody Allen. She is a film writer for CultMontreal.com and co-creator of The Cafe Phenomenon. Her list of inspirational people includes Tina Fey, primarily. Among her other interests are music, art, literature, and of course, food. Her film reviews have appeared in The Concordian and The Mirror.

3 responses »

  1. Wes B. says:

    I’m definitely going to see this movie after reading this review. I really like the title of the movie, “Like Crazy” :p

    ~ Wes B.
    http://thereporterschair.wordpress.com

  2. CMrok93 says:

    The story may have its fair share of schmaltz and cheesiness, but the direction and performances from the cast make this a believable and painful story about young love. It’s also refreshing to see a film that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Nice review. Check out mine once you get the chance.

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