Long distance relationships rarely work out for the best and it’s for one very simple reason — they’re fucking hard. No matter how far apart they are, each person is essentially leading a separate life that occasionally overlaps with the other’s. Small relationship problems become much larger and potentially overwhelming, communication ebbs and flows, and frustration at the situation itself invariably spills over into frustration with each other. Not all long distance relationships end poorly, but most fail because sometimes it just doesn’t matter how strong the relationship was before there was distance or even when they’re back together. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how right the couple may be for each other. Sometimes, it’s nobody’s fault, it’s just sad.
Like Crazy is an exploration of many of these aspects of a long distance relationship. The American Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and the British Anna (Felicity Jones) meet-cute while in college together in Los Angeles, and fall wildly in love with each other. This carries on through the summer following their graduation, where Anna makes an unfortunate decision that rains apparent tragedy on their relationship, leaving Jacob in L.A. while sending her back to London. This all takes place in about the first 10 minutes of the film. The rest of the movie is devoted to the next several years of their relationship, as Jacob and Anna try to deal with being in love while separated by 5,000+ miles (there are several jumps forward in time which, though made without any explicit “six months later” announcement, are relatively easy to track, even if you remain unsure of exactly how much time has passed).
Like Crazy presents a relatively honest view of the cirucmstances and the difficulties of Jacob and Anna’s relationship, without needing to throw too many obvious obstacles out there to keep the lovers separated (although it’s not terribly clear, particularly in the early days after that summer, why Jacob does not simply move to London). Much of the dialog between the couple is focused almost singularly on the difficulties of their relationship, and most of the improvised dialog feels real, with some fairly accurate and astute observations (only one scene really felt rough and improvised, and it was that scene that caused me to look into whether the film was improvised in the first place).
But the lines themselves almost don’t matter, given the performances of Yelchin and Jones. Yelchin, who seems for a while now to have been on the brink of becoming an “It guy,” is generally very good in the role, particularly in the scenes where he’s playing charming and in love. When he’s required to do a bit more of the heavy lifting, showing Jacob’s heartbreak and torture, he’s not always successful, though he never fails. Felicity Jones, meanwhile, is fantastic. She takes everything thrown her way and runs with it, making it easy to see why Jacob loves Anna, and heartbreaking to see her suffer under the weight of their strained relationship.
In fact, there’s quite a bit of heartbreak in Like Crazy. While it has moments of levity, and even a few laugh-out-loud moments, it’s ultimately a sad film. Not necessarily in a bawling your eyes out kind of way, but in the same way that these relationships are often buried under their own sadness. While the movie has a good, nuanced ending which is not really any of the endings you would expect going in, it’s not a perfect film — even with a running time of only 89 minutes, it feels a bit long. But it’s a very fine film, and a surprising one, given director/writer Drake Doremus’ first film, Douchebag. Mainstream audiences will probably hate this movie, because it trades the bright-lights of Going the Distance for the harsh fluorescent realities of the situation. But the sad truth is that good relationships don’t always work out for the best.