There are some films that make even the hardest of stone hearts believe in true love: Titanic, The Notebook, Cast Away (You mean you never felt the love Tom Hanks had for Wilson?). Then you have films that try to be one of those timeless date movies—pretty much every Nicholas Sparks novel adaptation that isn’t The Notebook. Then you have Like Crazy, a sappy little indie that looks kind of attractive based on its fresh little trailer alone. But in actuality, it just makes romance look kind of annoying.
Don’t get me wrong—Like Crazy is so, so far from being a failure. It did win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize after all, and the film has its strengths amongst its overall weakness. Basically, it chronicles a romance. Groundbreaking. Seriously now: What makes it different is the situation the lovers are put in and how they overcome it. The couple is Jacob (Anton Yelchin), a furniture design student, and Anna (Felicity Jones), an aspiring writer from Britain. The two meet as students at a Los Angeles college campus and quickly embark on a romance, depicted by an adorable montage of them frolicking in Santa Monica just about 10 minutes into the film. Sadly, they have to separate for the summer because Anna’s visa will expire but like a devoted girlfriend, she decides to stick around in the States anyway. This does not bode well with the U.S. government, and Anna ends up getting deported to her native country for the violation. Devastated by this setback, the two manage to keep in touch through phone calls and text messages, and Jacob even travels to the UK occasionally to see Anna and her parents (Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead). However, they become frustrated with their arrangements and begin seeing other people—he with Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), his co-worker at the design business he has set up in LA, and her with Simon (Charlie Bewley), a fellow professional she has known for a few years. On the inside, Jacob and Anna’s love for each other still runs deep and they continue to work to make their relationship last.
Their efforts are valliant and adorably sweet. The two use their best talents to create the most creative and cheesy ways of saying ‘I love you,’ and they become quite the plot devices throughout the movie. For some people, the young yet strong love between the couple will melt hearts and for others, as demonstrated through the uncomfortable laughter in my theater, it will make a lot of eyes roll. The affection and romantic gestures are unnecessarily oversaturated, and at points when it truly matters, it’s just not enough. We don’t really know much about how and why they became a couple, making the relationship a little hard to grasp at first since there’s no background to connect with. Quickly but beautifully edited montages of Jacob and Anna on the beach and still images of them lying in bed together are part of what makes the film nice to watch but one of those (Particularly the first—the second scene worked well even though it made for one of those eye-roll reactions) could have been a little more drawn out, for viewers to get more of a feel of the early stages of their courtship.
Amidst all the cavity-inducing sentiments, Like Crazy gets progressively aggravating to watch. The up-and-down nature of relationships is realistic, especially for one of the long-distance kind. But watching Jacob and Anna argue and doing outlandish things both for each other and against each other is like watching a more refined yet still dramatic episode of some trash reality show. They don’t know what they both want and at times, it seems as if they’re more motivated by selfishness (And impulse) rather than their feelings for the other person. By the end of the film, you question along with the main characters if they made the right decisions (Without spoiling it, I’ll just say that I don’t think they did). Despite the feelings of emptiness and the emotion in the film, it sends out skewed messages about love and relationships. I can’t write about it too much because it would give away some important plot points. But basically, it’s never cool to cheat on someone and sometimes the decisions you make with your heart aren’t necessarily better than the decisions you make with your head.
Though it ends up being a disappointing film, Like Crazy‘s subtle soundtrack and photographic elements truly make it a pretty moving portrait of what love means for its two characters. Along with those aspects, the cast performances make it worth watching. Yelchin and Jones come into their own as serious actors and have an undeniable chemistry, that’s mostly warm and is cold when it needs to be. It’s as if they were already a couple in real life or in another one, playing off of each other naturally and turning in excellent individual performances as well. It’s a shame that Lawrence and Bewley’s roles are so limited, but they too work well with their leads and show slivers of their capabilities, moreso the already-accomplished Lawrence. If they all worked with a better story and script, it could have stepped them all up on the Hollywood ladder. For now, Like Crazy is respectable, just not good enough. Then again, love messes with your head after all, so maybe I can forgive its shortcomings.