Drake Doremus' maturation as a filmmaker has come to pass, ironically with his first feature that focuses on people younger than he. "Like Crazy," starring Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as a young couple kept apart by visa problems and ocean and other lovers, is a touching and heartfelt look at how incredibly difficult love can be.
"Like Crazy" traces the years-long struggle of Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) to be together. After meeting at college in LA, the pair is driven apart by the U.S. government after she overstays her visa. Their troubles snowball from there. The film has been cynically dismissed by some as "'Blue Valentine' light," but it's a very different film, with a very different story to tell, one that includes the glimmer of hope, albeit of "The Graduate" variety. Doremus' view of love is that it can be ugly and messy and dumb, but that the prize is worth the fighting, and his film makes a compelling case.
Yelchin and Jones both give stirring performances in demanding roles, the latter winning a Special Jury prize at Sundance for her work. Jacob and Anna are complexly drawn characters that don’t allow an actor to throw him- or herself blindly into the breach, but rather call for a demanding level of control. The arc of their romance is such that we hardly ever see them secure in their relationship. They're either experiencing the anxiety of new love or of legal troubles or marriage proposals or outside attractions. But they, and Doremus, manage to keep they romance vital, even when the parties are separated by the Atlantic.
Doremus deftly skips across the years using clever shorthand, like moving the calendar forward with a montage of the couple in bed. And he somehow manages to get a handheld camera to deliver that "in the room" feel that so many filmmakers try to capture, but usually leave you scrounging for Dramamine. At times one of them will be out of the frame, or their backs are to you, heightening the sense of voyeurism, while at the same time reflecting what's happening between them.
Doremus says he shot the film for about a quarter-million dollars on a $1,500 DSLR, which stands as a testament to the value of backstory, writing and rehearsal. And it should put the rest of Hollywood on notice that it's time to shut up about money and get to work making great films.
"Like Crazy" offers as sincere a portrait of the pain and joy of love as you're likely to find in an American film this year, thanks to a pair of incredibly honest performances from a pair of future movie stars.