The striking Like Crazy is saddled with an unfortunately innocuous name — the sort given to movies about teenagers ending in some sort of a dance competition — but that’s not terribly surprising since the film is about, well, a pair of perfectly and imperfectly matched young lovers dealing with pangs of separation and the gnawing, cold reality that the hot-burning flame of their relationship may not be a forever-type thing.
The Grand Jury Prize winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the movie centers on Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones, in a breakthrough performance), who meet in Los Angeles at college and tumble into a romance. When the latter faces an expiring student visa set to pull her back home to England, it tosses a monkey wrench in their would-be summer of love. As is often the case in matters libidinal, Jacob and Anna throw caution to the wind. She stays, but then later, after slipping back to the U.K. for a cousin’s wedding, is barred from re-entry. Long-distance complications ensue, spanning a couple years.
Tender and bittersweet, Like Crazy is constructed in ways that invite an audience to impress upon the film its own memories and nostalgic feelings for that heady, hormonal surge of youthful attraction — meaning evocative framing choices, plenty of delicate, lingering close-ups, and, of course, montages. But there are nuances aplenty and the storytelling sensibility on display here by director Drake Doremus is finely tuned, and a big uptick from his previous outings, Spooner and Douchebag.
Yelchin and especially Jones, meanwhile, give sensitive and smart tightrope performances, and have a natural chemistry with one another that makes them a pleasure to watch. Like Crazy‘s ending is a perhaps willfully ambiguous thing, but also kind of nice insofar as it allows the movie to be a closed-loop romance for those seeking uplift, and a melancholic rumination from adulthood for those who are so sure they know better. (Paramount Vantage, PG-13, 89 minutes)