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Like Crazy

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones play long distance lovers kept apart by International bureaucracy..

True love has ne’er—or at least rarely—run less smoothly than in the affair charted in Drake Doremus’s romantic drama Like Crazy. Doremus has very seriously complicated his two lovers’ romantic course, eventually even calling into question how true their love really is. As the movie’s tense but rather barebones narrative unfolds, its two young protagonists become the original engineers of their increasing plight.

Jake (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) meet in an LA college classroom. He’s a design student who wants to make furniture; she’s a Brit visiting on a student visa, who wants to write. Very soon they’re in love, and as graduation approaches, and arrives, along with the imminent expiration of her visa, they prepare for a temporary separation until she can return to the States as a tourist. Instead, they make an impulsive, eros-driven decision that will prove sorrowfully life-altering for both. She will stay all summer and then return to Britain in advance of her subsequent rearrival. When they try this, she is, of course, tagged at the airport and sent back. From here on, the lovers must contend with official barriers to their long-term reunion, and with their own frustrations and doubt-weakened wills.

The structure and dominant tone of Doremus’s movie are significantly different than those of most American pictures. He’s provided his actors with story and scene outlines and worked with them to develop dialogue (a la Britain’s Mike Leigh), encouraging them to improvise. What they’ve come up with often has an immediacy, even a persuasively awkward sense of urgency. The rest of Doremus’s technique melds into his picture’s briskly moving, compact storyline. He propels his actors and events along in a series of short, abruptly cut scenes and with an active, skittering camera. In the last third of Like Crazy he slows things down as his two protagonists become more introspectively strained.

The pale, curly-headed Yelchin sometimes looks like a 19th-century Romantic poet, and in some takes his face has a haunted aspect. Jones slightly resembles a more animated, less pillowly young Elizabeth Taylor, but she really has her own on-screen persona. But the movie doesn’t always reward the actors’ generally admirable efforts.

The drawback to its improv approach is that it only inconsistently and inadequately dramatizes the characters’ situation. Sometimes, Like Crazy delivers a shot of severely stressed verismo; at others, there’s a tedium and lack of focus. The very last, almost wordless shots recall the sobering, ambiguous spirit of the closing long take in Mike Nichols’s The Graduate. They suggest what artistic control can convey.

Watch the trailer for Like Crazy

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