By Misa Shikuma
In Drake Doremus’ “Like Crazy“, Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones star as Jacob and Anna, an American and a Brit whose relationship becomes compromised when Anna violates her student visa and is banned from the United States. Tracking their lives for the first few years after they initially meet, the film explores how Jacob and Anna grapple with being long-distance while also trying to make it in the world as adults. Like a bittersweet ode to 20-somethings, this is a romantic drama that feels fresh, honest and real.
Anna is a student in her final year at a Los Angeles college when she decides to pluck up the courage to ask out her cute TA, Jacob, via a handwritten note left on his windshield. The two share an endearingly awkward first date, which quickly escalates to budding romance. Before they know it graduation is upon them, along with Anna’s inevitable return to the UK. But on the eve of her departure she decides to stay, unwittingly instigating a legal mess that will take many months, headaches and tears to unravel. Barred from leaving LAX after a quick trip home for a friend’s wedding, Anna has no choice but to go back.
At first the couple is optimistic, appealing Anna’s case and trying to stay in touch as much as possible, but life simply gets in the way. Their separation through time and space puts a damper on the relationship that is only exacerbated by the added challenges of adulthood; as Jacob and Anna soon discover, living solo and embarking on exciting new career paths leaves time for little else. Jacob can only afford to visit every so often, and while the chemistry between them is always present, their lives diverge once more during the interludes, when other suitors drift in and out of the picture.
Unlike most other romantic fare, “Like Crazy” never tries to vilify the other significant others, which for Jacob is his assistant Samantha (Jennifer Lawrence), and for Anna her neighbor Simon (Charlie Bewley). We never stop rooting for Jacob and Anna, of course, but at the same time Sam and Simon are too caring and genuine for us to resent. Jacob and Anna know it too but perhaps, as they say, you simply never forget your first love. At times it feels as though Jacob isn’t as fleshed out as his partner–while we see a lot of Anna’s parents, we never meet his–but overall the story offers a balanced perspective on the relationship and its future.
Yelchin and Jones are both rising stars whose raw performances lend an organic quality that is often missing from the typical studio pictures vying for the same young audience. Doremus lets the audience read into changes in the characters, which tend to lie in subtle details like a new writing desk or haircut as a sign of a new promotion.
As much as “Like Crazy” is about love, it is also about growing up and finding one’s way in life. Perhaps that’s why it resonated so much for me–in a mere matter of months I will be moving out, entering the job market and becoming a real person. But unlike other films I’ve seen, this didn’t make me fear for the future. Everything has a way of sorting itself out, it seems to suggest, so long as you don’t cross immigration.