British exchange student Anna (Jones) and classmate Jacob (Yelchin) fall in love while he's spending a semester in LA. However, a visa snafu sees them forced to conduct their relationship at a distance of 6,000 miles and, as careers and other people become more important, cracks begin to appear.
Drake Doremus' 2011 Sundance winner has rightly added to the increasing noise surrounding Felicity Jones (Chalet Girl, Northanger Abbey). Here she’s Anna, a single malt-loving British girl in LA who falls hard for fellow student Jacob (Anton Yelchin), only for the pair to find their heady relationship soon under threat thanks to the tiresome demands of the immigration services. Faced with separation, Anna makes an impetuous but, in her view, inevitable decision — lie low and believe that the rightness of their union will see them through.
Of course, it doesn’t, and the authorities catch up with our (to their minds) star-cross’d lovers, as they always will. It’s a variation on a theme that’s powered drama for centuries, yet Like Crazy has a freshness and subtle wit that makes Doremus’ examination of first love offer something if not new, still achingly nostalgic but also wryly knowing (Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead’s modern parents are wonderful). It’s a neat approach that calls to mind Before Sunset’s position that how you view that love story will reflect you as much as the events therein, but here we find ourselves taking both positions, thrilling to the intensity of their passion then nodding sagely as the strain begins to show.
The success of this bifocal view lies largely in a strong note of authenticity, aided by the fact Jones and Yelchin improvised much of the dialogue. They’re an engaging couple, and it’s fun to watch them fall in love — a first date listening to records in their digs, being all grown-up as they take a weekend away in a coastal B&B, even if it’s soured (a clever touch) by Anna’s looming flight home.
It means that when ‘fate’ forces them apart and other people come into view, we’re as unsettled as they are. Jennifer Lawrence shines as Jacob’s new interest, sweet, sassy, kind, understanding, guilty only of being possibly the right girl at definitely the wrong time. Charlie Bewley’s Simon, a City hot shot in stark contrast to Jacob’s struggling carpenter, influences Anna in ways that on paper can only be good (less booze, more exercise, ditch the cigs), but still we bristle. And yet when our heroes are reunited, the hearts and flowers are distressingly hidden from view. It’s as if we’re finding out what might have happened had Romeo and Juliet overcome their raging hormones and lived to bicker about car tax and the remote.
As with Richard Linklater’s genre classics, Like Crazy ends on an ambiguous note — though arguably romantics will suffer more keenly at its sad-sweet implications.
Felicity Jones shines in Drake Doremus deceptively simple romance, a refreshing take on an age-old dilemma.