Netflix Movie Month: "Like Crazy" Review

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: January 27, 2012
Directed by: Drake Doremus
Genre: Drama / romance

Directed by Drake Doremus and written by Doremus and Ben York, "Like Crazy" stars Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence. The film, shot with a Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera and costing less than $250,000 to produce, features fully improvised dialogue based on a 50-page outline. It is the winner of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize. In an interview, Austrian Desiree Pappenscheller, formerly married to Doremus, said the film's plot, including immigration complications, is loosely based on their relationship. Many film critics regard Doremus as a prodigy. The director and writer dropped out of high school to focus on film direction and screenwriting, becoming, at the age of 19, the youngest person to be accepted by the American Film Institute's Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies. "Like Crazy" is his third feature film, following "Spooner" (2009) and "Douchebag" (2010). His 2013 film "Breathe In" also features Felicity Jones as well as a foreign exchange student character.

British foreign exchange student Anna Gardner (Jones) falls in love with fellow college student Jacob Helm (Yelchin) while attending school in Los Angeles. Anna leaves Jacob a note, which leads to a meeting, and the pair discover a mutual love for Paul Simon's "Graceland" album, among other things.

After graduation, Anna opts to remain in the United States for the summer to spend more time with Jacob. Neither of them is aware of the legal implications of overstaying her student visa, which was only effective through graduation.

When Anna goes home to England for a family event and attempts to return to the U.S., she is detained. Immigration officials sent her back to the United Kingdom, stating that she violated the terms of her student visa.

Although Jacob returns Anna's romantic overtures, he never appears to be quite as in love with Anna as she is with him. Anna decides that Jacob must simply move to England with her. However, she is disappointed to learn that Jacob chooses to remain in Santa Monica where he designs chairs for a living. Although this would appear to indicate a lopsided degree of commitment to the relationship - surely Jacob's line of work stands as great a chance of being successful in England as in the U.S. - Anna decides to appeal the immigration decision.

In the meantime, Anna is prohibited from visiting the U.S. Her relationship with Jacob begins to fray under the pressure of distance, even after he visits London for several weeks. When her parents, who are paying legal counsel in an effort to have the travel ban lifted, suggest they marry to solve their problem, Jacob resists, which adds to the tension.

The two grow apart after Jacob returns to the U.S. Once home, he begins dating his assistant, Samantha, and Anna eventually begins dating a British man. Although she tries to move on, Anna finds herself unable to quell her feelings for Jacob. She calls him to say that they are likely to never encounter the degree of love they feel for each other in anyone else and urges him to marry her.

The film includes many romantic comedy clich├ęs but manages to feel fresh at the same time. Its lightweight, sweet qualities are counter-balanced by its more bitter moments, giving it a three-dimensional feeling.

The acting, particularly given that most lines are improvised, is excellent. The movie spurred many film critics to predict that Jones and Yelchin are destined to be big names in the industry. Despite playing a relatively small role, Lawrence, always a popular and critical favorite, delivers a vivid, convincing performance with exceptional dialogue.

Despite the fact that the story spans several years and two continents, Doremus manages to keep the film moving at a pace that feels natural, whether that involves long, painful scenes or quick transitions from one time period to another.

The film leaves viewers wondering, as Doremus appears to have intended, whether Anna and Jacob are truly in love, or whether theirs is a simple case of infatuation made more intense by their youth, geographic distance and the fact that, for both of them, this is their first real romance. It is the fact that neither the audience nor the characters seemingly know the answer to that question that makes the movie so fascinating, so alternately painful and delightful and ultimately so hard to forget.

Rating: 3 out of 5