Like Crazy is exceptional. The imagery is compelling. The story is firmly grounded in reality, but still whimsical. The piano montages are refined and elegant. The two leads, Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, are completely winning. There were a few seconds, total, within the 89 streamlined minutes I didn't adore. Everything else? Sign me up. Delightfully done by director Drake Doremus.
The story starts at a university, where Jacob (Yelchin) is a teaching assistant in a class Anna (Jones) is taking. The semester is coming to an end and she's debating whether or not to tell him how she feels about him. She's at once scared and overwhelmed by the feeling. She decides to leave him a rambling love letter, which he duly appreciates, and we're off on a whirlwind romance. There will be ups and downs, just like with previous relationships you've been involved in, because the relationship isn't simple or straightforward. It spans nationalities (she's from London, he's an American), time, and the realisitc career vs. couplehood dilemma. Certain bad (though understandable) choices will be made by both main characters. Trust and jealousy issues will arise. Both Jacob and Anna will occasionally give up or give in. But throughout the film the characters will be placed front and center, and you can't help but root for them, despite their failings, because of their vulnerability.
Felicity Jones is an absolute epiphany in her portrayal of Anna. She's saddled with the profession of "writer," which generally leads to no good, but she's so consistently frenzied and haywire that it starts to make sense. Jacob is her obsession, and we all know you can't choose your obsessions. Yelchin, for his part, is almost a ghost at the start of the film. So deeply does he fall into the part of a quiet young furniture maker that I didn't even think of his previous roles. He's soft-spoken, but the chemistry he and Anna share is evident to anyone who has cared for someone for reasons largely undefinable. Sure, you love their smile and their kindness, but it's the emotions you can't explain given our limited verbal toolkit that leave you both haunted and addicted. And make no mistake: this is an addiction, this is that "crazy" love that infects your brain and alters your mindset, making the rest of the world pale by comparison.
I should note that what most impressed me about Like Crazy was the overall lack of sentiment. Nothing is come by cheaply, these actors earn every single bit of empathy you feel for both of them. And real world problems intrude, early and often. The machinery of life can be cruel, as evidenced by certain "long distance" aspects of this burgeoning relationship. But nothing worth accomplishing is easy, and by the end you know that you're a fan of each individual, regardless of the outcome of the film. Though, of course, you will definitely be cheering for these crazy kids.
The details of Like Crazy are what sets it apart from your average, everyday "person A meets person B" style of narrative. Close-up shots of facial expressions, the gift of a gratefully received wooden chair, the U.S. flag looming in the background when she's about to head back to England. These moments will stick with you, and the dramatic tension is strong and ever building. To wit, rival suitors for their affections aren't monsters, as they come from a legitimate and heartfelt place. Like Crazy drives complexity, and it does so stylishly and cleverly. This is the film that lends lovely visuals to the feeling that won't go away, in the middle of the night or out at a bar, when you just want to be near the one you love.