A year on from scooping the Grand Jury prize at Sundance, Drake Doremus’ realist romance arrives on these shores in full bloom. Tender and traumatic, it’s not hard to see why it entranced the jury, who also bestowed our own Felicity Jones with a Special Jury prize.
She plays Anna, a British student living in LA who falls for Jacob (Anton Yelchin), an aspiring furniture designer she meets at college. It’s Jones who makes the strongest impression among the ensemble cast, all of whom improvised their dialogue.
After playing the sweet girl next door in Cemetery Junction , she shows considerable maturity here – even if her Anna is unfailingly naïve. Spending a dreamy summer with Jacob, she decides against going home and overstays her visa. Big mistake.
Eventually returning to England for a family visit, Anna flies back to the US, only to be detained at immigration and refused entry. And so begins a hellish second act, as Anna and Jacob are forced to contend with the difficulties of an overseas relationship, US bureaucracy and, most painfully, the threat of other lovers in the background.
Anyone who’s ever had a long-distance romance will know how troublesome it can be, and Doremus captures the feelings of jealousy, longing and isolation extremely well. Likewise, the ebb and flow of their union is well realised, as both drift into other relationships – Jacob with his assistant Sam (Jennifer Lawrence, terrific), Anna with her friend Simon (Charlie Bewley).
Hampered by patchy plotting, the third act meanders. But from the first flush of romance to the embittered arguments that follow, Like Crazy ’s naturalism wins out. Bring Kleenex.