Like Crazy follows two students Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) as they finish studying at university in America, and the difficulties they face when Anna is banned from the US for staying longer than the time allowed by her visa.
As a romantic lead, Felicity Jones finds herself on fairly familiar ground and as such it’s no surprise to see she largely excels in her role. It may be a somewhat generic role she’s been given to work with, but she acts with heart and sensitivity. Those more familiar with Anton Yelchin from films such as Star Trek or Terminator Salvation may not instantly see him as a romantic figure, but as an introspective thinker he performs admirably, but without the emasculated romanticism of many other such figures. He’s prone to romantic actions, but he’s also capable of ignoring the phone when Anna rings, one of many little things that seem to make him exist as a character in more dimensions than a typical leading man, or a “flawed character”. Both suffer from a slight case of university pretension and almost self professed genius, but in some ways this just helps make them more believable.
Jacob and Anna share an easy chemistry through mutual awkwardness, probably largely due to the fact much of their scenes are improvised. There’s a believability from their realistic performance, aided by simple direction. Within five minutes, I found myself in love with them. There’s a childishness that seems both infuriating and yet completely endearing. The happiness they share is so contagious, and such when things start to go wrong, you naturally empathise with them.
The problem that exists with this is it’s not like Anna wasn’t warned about the risks of her actions. While you can empathise with her pain, it’s a pain of her own making. As the film then moves on to deal with the many problems associated with long distance relationships, tackling them more seriously than recent lighter fare such as “Going The Distance”, it finds itself in predictable and well worn territory, attempting to add some dramatic gravitas.
Anna’s parents, Bernard & Jackie (Oliver Muirhead and Alex Kingston, respectively) bring some heart to proceedings, giving Anna support throughout, but like Sam (Jennifer Lawrence) Jacob’s secretary and Simon (Charlie Bewley), Anna’s neighbour, they’re all largely underused. This isn’t entirely a fault though, as the film finds itself struggling to keep the slightly more unique voice it has when Jacob and Anna aren’t sharing the screen.
While this is not a perfect film, there’s a lot to like here. As a couple, Jacob and Anna are largely lovable, and the way the film explores the compromises they must make to stay together seems both realistic and interesting, climaxing with a suitably ambiguous ending. While the pacing is occasionally off-putting, this film manages to defy a lot of convention to capture the essence of young romance.