With its intensely relatable story and intimate performances, Like Crazy was one of the first movies picked up from last year's Sundance Film Festival. In it, Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones rely almost entirely on improv acting to bring to life the story of young love facing the challenges of a long-distance relationship. Like Crazy is now in limited release, and if you can see it, you will likely recognize the emotional cycle of passion, frustration, jealousy, and doubt that plays out on screen, especially if you've been in a long-distance relationship.
Anyone who has fallen in love can identify the nascent stages of it. Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin) take each familiar step as they get to know each other. Anna, an English exchange student in Los Angeles, tells Jacob that she's really not a "nutcase" when she leaves a note asking him out. Their first date is wonderfully awkward and the tension rises as they anticipate their first kiss; will it or won't it happen? It does, and they fall fast in love. They discover they both love Paul Simon's Graceland album, and Jacob's slightly uncomfortable, yet charming when he meets her parents. After graduation, Anna must return to the UK to apply for her work visa, and we all know her real motive for picking little fights with Jacob on her last day: she's going to miss him.
Anna just can't imagine leaving LA and Jacob, even just for a Summer, and makes the impulsive decision of a 21-year-old to outstay her student visa, figuring everything will work out. It doesn't, and her shortsighted decision gains her a long-term ban on entering the US. Thus, Anna and Jacob find themselves in a long-distance relationship right after graduating university, a time when nothing is certain, including when they will next see each other.
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A common thing I've heard from long-distance relationship veterans is that it's especially grueling when there is no expiration date on the distance. If you know you'll live in the same place after you finish school or as soon as you secure a job, it's easier to replace face-to-face time with Skype chats. In Like Crazy, Anna and Jacob struggle to find a plan that will keep them together. They each begin to put down roots in LA and London respectively, and the relationship turns to frustrated phone calls or awkward meetings when Jacob does manage to come to London for a visit. At one point, succumbing to reason, they agree to see other people, and they're both satisfied enough in new relationships. They might lack the excitement of a first love, but then again, isn't that a one-time deal? Anna and Jacob start to become happy in their lives apart, but a single "hi" text message from the other can snap them outside of reality and back into missing each other. They are never really present anywhere, it seems. When Jacob goes to London, he feels like a stranger invading Anna's life, but back at home he feels incomplete without her.
As time goes on, Anna, Jacob, and the viewer, begin to forget the foundation of the relationship, what things were like before the distance. So removed from what made the relationship worth the distance, they can't help but think about cutting their losses, which is what many couples do in real life. A relationship might have lasted if you didn't have to move for graduate school or go back home after college or move to different cities for work. Like Crazy makes you wonder what makes one pair of long-distance romantics stick it out and another turn into pragmatists who move on. I won't tell you how Anna and Jacob end up, but they definitely sway back and forth, giving everyone something they can relate to.