Absence makes the heart grow weaker in this brilliant look at love’s labor lost
Boy meets girl, they fall in love and face obstacles before bliss can be achieved; you know the drill. Drake Doremus’s twentysomething romance initially doesn’t give any indication of being different from its punch-drunk predecessors: Curly-haired, hunky Jacob (Yelchin) and wispy Brit Anna (Jones) start a typical collegiate courtship (Poetry! Whiskey! Montages on a beach!). Anna’s student visa expires, she stays on anyway and after returning to England, discovers that such bureaucratic negligence will cost her dearly. Separated by thousands of miles, the couple must negotiate the loneliness of the long-distance relationship—and that’s when Like Crazy reveals its true self, following a puppy love that withers as the dog days of adulthood and absence push the duo further into the periphery of each other’s lives.
If Doremus’s previous feature, the curdled sibling bromance Douchebag, did little to distinguish him from the mumblecore pack, this quantum leap forward demonstrates a filmmaker who knows how to use looseness to great advantage. Time is denoted by unexpected shifts—facial hair, fresh romantic partners—while every semi-improvised interaction between Yelchin and Jones brims with a jagged, off-the-cuff authenticity. If the occasional bum note gets struck (the soundtrack, that “Patience” bracelet), the film drowns them out with echoes of hearts pitter-pattering and breaking. Screen romance has become a saccharine affair; Like Crazy proves it’s still possible to make a love story that’s both genuinely sweet and bittersweet.