Like Crazy is a terrible title for a romantic film you're supposed to take seriously, yet the film is so good where it really matters that the sin is ultimately forgivable.
The movie doesn't have a bouncy soundtrack, a quirky best friend for the female lead, or that stupid scene at the end where the guy's got four minutes to run through the airport before she gets on a plane and leaves for good. Hallelujah.
Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) attend the same college class, but never speak to each other. She likes him well enough, however, to leave a note under his windshield wiper. Paper, in this day and age? How quaint. They meet up for a quick bite, nervous as hell (it's eerily reminiscent of a lot of first dates in your early 20s), and that leads to a relationship unlike any either has experienced.
Anna wants to be a journalist after college; Jacob is already working as a furniture designer. A couple of months into their courtship, he builds Anna a sturdy but unspectacular desk chair, the sort of thing a young writer might need, and a symbolic gesture of the kind of love they seem to share. It's simple and strong enough to last—functional but not ornamental.
But Anna is living in Los Angeles on a student visa. When it expires, she needs to move back to England until a new visa can be issued. So there are a couple of scenes at the airport, but the film doesn't tilt on them. The distance proves challenging for the young couple, and ultimately, it isn't the mileage, but another kind of distance that puts the relationship on shaky ground.
Director Drake Doremus captures the essence of what it's like to be young and desperately strung out on somebody. It's not an easy quality to depict, which is one reason why there are so few good pure romantic dramas. There are no intermissions from their predicament, and no subplots or supporting characters to change the tempo a bit; the film asks a lot of two young actors to hold the story together while the relationship drifts apart.
Anton Yelchin has been around for a decade or so, and he's popping up in mainstream fare like Star Trek and Fright Night these days. This is the most-complex acting he's probably had to do in his career, and he's a touch too subtle some of the time. When things get heated, he's better, but Jacob can be a little too nonchalant in the quieter moments.
Felicity Jones is a winsome British import who makes Jacob's trans-Atlantic quest somewhat justifiable, if not completely logical. In that way in which technology is exponentially improving on itself faster and faster, here is the new Carey Mulligan, before the old one even got old. Jones and Yelchin share a definite chemistry—the kind of chemistry that hits immediately, and is still there even when the two are at each other's throats.
Doremus makes his film less about falling in love or even being in love. It's more accurate to say this is a film about trying to stay in love, if only for the sake of being in it.