Film Review: Like Crazy

This indie gem explores with uncommon insight the eroding effects of long distance on love.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Like Crazy is small but heartfelt (also deeply personal, one suspects), beautifully crafted, and suffused with a bitter wisdom. It explores the question: Can love—despite all the passion, promises and social media—survive prolonged separations? Especially when the distraction of careers and other potential partners enter the equation?

In this third feature from Drake Doremus (the elegantly titled Douchebag), Brit exchange student Anna (newcomer Felicity Jones) and American Jacob (Anton Yelchin) fall hard for each other in college in L.A. But come graduation, when Anna's student visa expires, the couple must decide: What next? What does, in fact, happen next pivots on a moment of youthful carelessness, when Anna impulsively decides to flout technical niceties, visas be damned, and spend the summer in the States loving Jacob.

The MacGuffin here is Anna's punishment by the INS for overstaying her visit and its refusal to permit her re-entry to America. So Jacob must shuttle back and forth to London to sustain the liaison. Anyone's who's been in a similar situation will recognize the strains of trying to keep a relationship vital in limbo. The friction between Anna and Jacob that inevitably surfaces pushes them toward other lovers, who have the advantage of being close to hand. Also exerting a centrifugal force is her career as a magazine editor, his as a furniture designer.

Elliptically constructed with lots of air between plot points, the film shows a mastery of narrative compression. Doremus marks the passage of several years—from early courtship, to efforts to bridge the separation, to the troubling denouement—through a series of telling moments: a jealous glance from Jacob at Anna's handsome flat-mate stopping by on an innocuous errand; a blunt statement that marriage would solve the couple's problems by Anna's scotch-loving parents (Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead); an intimate moment between Jacob and his new squeeze (Jennifer Lawrence) ruptured by an emotional text message from Anna.

A speedy montage of stills captures Anna and Jacob in bed over the fatal summer. That sequence is about as racy as it gets; for a story about young lovers, the film is strikingly reticient. Doremus focuses solely on the shredding of a couple's heartfelt commitment by time and circumstance, gaining traction from what he leaves out. Early in their affair, reluctant to say goodbye, Anna and Jacob touch their fingers to the glass door separating them. It's a wonderfully prescient moment encapsulating the film's theme. Jones and Yelchin deliver easy, lived-in turns (mostly improvised, according to the director) in this indie gem that portends a rosy future for both them and Doremus.