Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy (2011) is the latest in a long line of American independent films which have recently taken a bitter-sweet approach towards romance. Up-and-coming duo Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin (with support from Jennifer Lawrence) star as a pair of hopeless romantics imprisoned by their deep emotional connection, who through one misguided decision, find themselves on separate sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Anna (Jones) and Jacob (Yelchin) meet whilst studying together at college in Los Angeles. Anna is an articulate young girl from England with a strong yearning to be a journalist, whilst Jacob is a Los Angeles native with a flair for carpentry. The two begin a picture perfect relationship which encompasses the gamut of young love cliches – taking leisurely, hand held strolls across the beach and spending long lazy mornings in bed together, entwined in each other’s arms – each seemingly unable to relinquish themselves from the other.
There blossoming relationship soon comes undone when Anna, blinded by love, decides to overstay her student visa – leading to her being detained and quickly deported when attempting to re-enter the US after a family wedding. The implications are devastating with neither party able to cope with the trans Atlantic journeys involved to see each other, yet simultaneously incapable of rebuilding their lives without the other.
Despite its harrowing tale of love against adversity, Like Crazy lacks the emotional weight necessary for its audience to become completely immersed in Anna and Jacob’s dilemma. Whilst director Drake Doremus successfully portrays the inevitable repercussions of his protagonists plight, he fails to make the initial growth of their relationship feel powerful enough for us to care about the fate of his infuriatingly beautiful couple.
Jones and Yelchin perform commendably with the material they’re given and when left to physically portray the multitude of emotions they’re internally struggling with, both successfully depict their characters vulnerability through distant yet troubled exteriors. However, when working with the stunted and embarrassingly simplistic dialogue, neither actor is able to inject any life into the mundane prose they’re given, resulting in yet another stumbling block for an audience desperately looking for a way to make a connection to these incredibly thinly drawn characters.
Doremus’ voyeuristic approach to filming eventually comes to fruition during Anna and Jacobs’s inevitable decline into heartbreak, jealousy and insecurity. It’s here where the film truly comes into its own, feeling both uncomfortable yet strangely intriguing – sadly though it all comes too late. Like Crazy has all the ingredients necessary for a devastatingly effective tragedy, yet in its rush to deal with the gritty fallout of its central premise, it fails to build the foundations required to make its powerful middle act the emotionally exhausting journey it originally promises to be.