The surprise winner of last year’s Sundance Film Festival was Like Crazy: unconventional filmmaker Drake Doremus’ take on the highs and lows of love. Unlike other romantic dramas, this one is able to subvert the clichéd trends and offer a simple yet fruitful romance story that relishes in its low-key charm.
Anna (Felicity Jones), a British student studying in America, embarks upon a passionate love affair with the artistic, if slightly less involved, Jacob (Anton Yelchin). When Anna overstays her visa and is denied re-entry into the US, the couple must battle a mélange of issues to keep their love alive.
This is a story not only about the ups and downs of love, but also of the naïveté and recklessness of being young. Anna and Jacob live by their hearts, never thinking about the effects of their actions. Instead of pondering their future, they spend their early courtship having pillow fights and spending whole days in bed.
It’s only when they’re forced to take action in their lives, find jobs and settle into complex relationships (with Charlie Bewley’s Simon and Jennifer Lawrence’s Sam, respectively), that they can look back on the early days. Can that innocence be reclaimed, and could that relationship ever work?
No matter how true-to-life Like Crazy feels, Doremus and screenwriter Ben York Jones’ decision to work against the norm – an in-depth script was scrapped in favour of a brief outline and the cast’s ability to improvise - causes the characters to feel a little perfunctory and absent-minded. However, thanks to Jones and Yelchin’s devotion and aptitude, the cracks are only just visible, barely having any effect on the predominantly absorbing experience.
Jones and Yelchin are, to the film’s advantage, simply marvellous at making the conceit believable and reflective of real life relationships. Working mainly off-the-cuff and encapsulated in DoP John Gulesarian’s encompassing handheld camera and whimsical lighting, they’re able to create an inherently tangible and organic connection – one that feels entirely logical in the way it’s left to mature without any outside interference.
In addition to their subtle yet engaging and competent chemistry, they also prove themselves as excellent actors, not least in their capability to say so much through the touch of a hand, the look out the corner of an eye or slight movement in their bodies. Even the supporting cast, no matter how clearly their characters are engineered for the narrative, deliver surprisingly affecting performances. It’s Alex Kingston and Olivier Muirhead, though, as Anna’s intriguing if much-too-blasé parents that steal the show in their brief scenes.
Like Crazy is not without faults, but it’s through sheer tenacity, candor and the air of authenticity Doremus, Jones and Yelchin are able to establish that it can differentiate itself from other films of its ilk. For those willing to invest a little, there’s oodles of reward.