When you are young and you are in love, you do stupid, stupid things. Reason and logic mean nothing to the mind in love; emotions rule every waking moment of your life, and they dictate every decision from the smallest to the greatest. Young, dumb love can keep you from thinking, at least in practical terms. This universal truth is on full display in Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy. And if you’ve ever done something incredibly stupid in the name of love (most all of us, yes?), then you will feel a lot of pain and sympathy as you make your way through this movie.
Jacob and Anna meet in Los Angeles near the end of their senior year of college; Justin is an American, Anna is a London girl – both are incredibly attractive, of course. They fall for each other hard; I mean, like suicide jumper off the Empire State building hard, and they never look back. We don’t really know why they fall for each other, other than their aforementioned attractiveness. What do they have in common? Not much that the movie lets on; they have distinctly separate career goals – he in furniture design, she in journalism – and it’s not as if they have mutual friends or other interests. They are on an island of love. None of that stuff really matters, though, because the sword they fall on is their respective nationalities. Anna’s student visa is set to expire about one year after she and Jacob meet and fall in love. She’s supposed to go back to the UK for a few months, then get a work visa, and get her butt back to America so she can keep herself in the unending throes of love. But, as we noted before, love obscures reason, and Anna is incredibly stupid when it comes US customs laws; instead of going back to the UK, she decides that she’s gonna be a bad girl and overstay her visa by three months. What she doesn’t see is that her decision is highly impractical; she is trading in three months of love bliss for several years of pain. Her boyfriend, who, on the night before her intended return, had just given her a nice bracelet with an inscription that read “patience”, goes along with her. He too cannot think. Though the movie is never explicit about it, we get the impression that they believe love will conquer all. Well, love can conquer a lot of things, but it doesn’t have much against U.S. customs laws. Sorry, kids.
There it is, the ultimate paradox of young romance: it lives for the moment, wanting the moment to last forever, but in living for the moment, young romance destroys the future. The moment, if lived for, cannot last.
The future for Justin and Anna is one of starts and stops. With Justin in L.A. and Anna trapped in London, they do the long distance thing. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but, naturally, a romance can carry the emotional weight of separation for only so long. They try to get her visa status straightened out, but the sea of red tape between America and Britain is pretty much insurmountable, or at least it takes a very long time to cross. So while she’s in London and he’s in L.A. they attempt to talk on the phone (but time differences screw that up) and they text. They must have incredible phone bills! Because she can’t enter the US, he comes to London a few times. In London they talk about seeing other people while they are away from each other (death knell!), and then they do see other people. And then on one visit they even get married, thinking that wedlock will somehow convince the U.S. government that Anna should be allowed back into the country. This is a couple that knows exactly what they want, but are unable to do what it takes to get it. So they are married, but living in different countries. You can see where that leads, right?
This situation leads them to some obvious and not-so-obvious places, so I won’t divulge any more plot information at this point. The plot itself doesn’t really matter, because Like Crazy accurately captures the stupid emotional rush of young love so well that you’ll find yourself transplanted to the first time you really fell in love with someone and acted like a total idiot. Inside this film, you will recognize yourself. You will recognize your own petty jealousy. You will notice your own irrational decision-making. You will see clearly how these two should have conducted themselves, but you will also understand exactly why they didn’t. You will sit there in the theatre and scream inside your brain for them to have a little more patience; to not overstay the visa; to wait a little bit longer for the government to do it’s thing; to either not see other people or to break up entirely; to not text each other when they’re crying; to move on with their lives. You will want them to do anything but try to fall back in love again, but that’s the only thing you’ll want them to do. At times you might even hate Justin and Anna. They tear each other apart and sometimes for no good reason at all. When they are with their other partners, they are constantly distracted by their past, never able to give themselves completely to the other. They’re not trying to be jerks, but they are.
The genius of the film is that it doesn’t offer a lot of motivations for Jacob and Anna. It’s all there in the unassailable performances of Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, who convince us that these characters are as blind as two lovers can be. Jones and Yelchin have a superior on-screen chemistry that convinces us, despite their hardships and the requisite thinness of their relationship, from almost the first frame of the movie that there is only one true option for these people. When that option is betrayed, we sense that their new partners are decent people, but that they are also the wrong people. Like Crazy convinces us of the one thing that all great romance films must: that anything other than this couple is dead wrong. And then it turns that notion upside down.