Wistful, bittersweet, pleasantly diverting, and brimming with sincerity, Like Crazy is one of the best kinds of romance: it balances the romantic and the realistic, it focuses on the couple themselves (along with a few ill-conceived lovers), and it rarely takes itself too seriously. By accurately capturing the whimsy of first love and keeping melodrama at a distance, Like Crazy turns a schmaltzy story into a subdued knockout.
The narrative is threadbare: Anna Gardner (Felicity Jones, a rising indie star), a British exchange student in Los Angeles, falls for Jacob Helm (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek) and decides to overstay her visa in order to spend the summer with him. When she returns to the UK for a family engagement, she is denied reentrance to the US. Their relationship becomes quasi-permanently long-distance as they attempt to combat months-long bureaucratic delays and immigration hurdles – and, on one side, the appeal of Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) – with patience and a marriage ceremony.
Jones and Yelchin’s performances are competently strong, expressing much while saying little. Audiences with any kind of similar history will connect with Anna and Jacob’s faraway looks and heartfelt yearning. Jones is an elegant marvel, bewitching in her believable inability to give up on something that is disappearing before her eyes. She appears destined for great things.
Refreshingly absent is a feeling that writer-director Drake Doremus (Douchebag) is reaching beyond a improvisatory portrayal of the minutiae of a relationship that has been weathered by time and space. His screenplay is delicate and observational, and his camera giddily exhibits the couple’s low-key intimacy, particularly in a bedroom montage.
The final scene is immensely poignant and irreparably tragic: Jacob and Anna are in the shower, naked, embracing, and yet plagued by the woozy memories they once shared and by the palpable chemistry they have now lost. Their bodies are stiff, their hearts frozen with the implications, at which point Stars’ sublime “Dead Hearts” floods the soundtrack, over the credits.