“I thought I understood it, that I could grasp it, but I didn’t, not really. Only the smudgeness of it; the pink-slippered, all-containered, semi-precious eagerness of it. I didn’t realize it would sometimes be more than whole, that the wholeness was a rather luxurious idea. Because it’s the halves that halve you in half. I didn’t know, don’t know, about the in-between bits; the gory bits of you, and the gory bits of me.”
It’s no mystery why I was initially drawn to this movie; a bittersweet, independent, transatlantic love story about the ups and downs of a long distance relationship - sounds entirely like a remake of my life. What I left with was much deeper than that. Directed and co-written by Drake Doremus, starring newcomers Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, this simple, 90-minute, ungilded tale Like Crazy was fully improvised. Following a 50-page outline detailing plot points, the two actors were given the freedom to make each scene their own, which explains how from the very first moment the movie opened, the immediacy of the scenes felt so raw. I would imagine that those who come across this movie, no matter the age, gender, or race, will be able to sympathize, and even empathize with the infatuation yet disillusionment of first love; the idea that nothing in this world, not even an expired-visa could stop you from being with each other. However, this is not the case in reality, and erratic behaviour often falls short and comes with lasting retributions, which is exactly what happens in Like Crazy, becoming the fuse that lights this tumultuous relationship between Anna and Jacob that spans many miles, hardships and unaccountable number of years.
The critical turning point in the movie pivots around the summer after their college graduation, when Anna - A British exchange student - decides to overstay her American visa and spend the summer go-karting, frolicking and bedding the aspiring furniture designer, Jacob. Their romance begins quite abruptly in the movie; when Anna leaves Jacob a note on the windshield of his car, signing it, ‘please don’t think I’m a nutcase’. Early on in the movie we already get a sense of Anna’s self-righteousness and go-getting attitude, foreshadowing her impulsive behaviour when it comes to getting what she wants, when she wants.
Setting aside the small nuances that don’t make quite much sense (i.e. Anna’s parents being entirely liberal about the fact that their only-child wants to leave home and move in with her American boyfriend, how Skype is neglected as a way of communication, why Jacob can’t just move his business to London), the movie is hauntingly beautiful because as the viewer, you are able to fully empathize with the characters. As much as Anna’s decision frustrates you in the beginning and is an initial setback in questioning the validity of the entire movie, as it unfolds, you suddenly remember that all human beings are flawed and sometimes, when you find someone you love Like Crazy, you forego all thoughts of the future in order to focus on the present - although Anna does take it a bit far.
In an ever-so realistic fashion, the two star-crossed lovers find their transatlantic romance difficult to sustain, even tying-the-knot at one point (in a very small, old-fashioned ceremony in London) in hopes of having Anna’s visa issue revoked. As life happens though, they meet significant others along the way; Jacob starts shacking up with the assistant in his furniture studio - Sam - while Anna will at one point start seeing her next-door neighbour, Simon. On the surface, it seems as if everything still functions the same - if not better - without each other in their lives; but the fact remains that while they have seemingly perfect lives in the present, their minds still linger on the question of what could have been.
For me, this becomes the most important thematic element that carries the movie forward and prevents it from being another lackluster independent film with no substance. As viewers, you begin to wonder if Anna had decided to return to London as she was supposed to and enter back into America with no issues, whether or not they would have lasted as long as they did. While their situation seemed weak and extremely volatile at times, the distance and time apart is what kept their relationship going over so much time, more so than any other relationship they sustained over the years, the idea that memories can sometimes win over reality because they seem much more fantastical in your head. Doremus leaves the ending of their relationship open-ended. While on the one hand, they are finally physically able to bridge the distance that has separated Anna and Jacob for so long, the question still remains; is that enough to sustain what they used to have? Growing up can also mean growing apart. It is up to you, the viewer, to decide their fate.