When Jacob (Anton Yelchin) meets Anna (Felicity Jones) in the exquisite, happy/sad young-love story Like Crazy, it's only after Anna makes the first move. She's a spunky British visiting student at a Los Angeles university and an aspiring writer; he's a quiet American classmate and an aspiring furniture designer. Anna's instincts are good: The two quickly fall rapturously, totally head-over-heels in love. And the magic of this glowing little award-winner by director/co-writer Drake Doremus (Douchebag) is that we believe every skip and flutter of their beating hearts, even as those beats are challenged by forces beyond their control: When Anna returns to her family in London after graduation, visa problems keep her there.
Doremus has said he developed Like Crazy based on his own experience with a long-term, long-distance relationship; he's attentive to the million little frustrations that can nibble away at even the most passionate commitment, moments pinpointed by the production's handheld camera work. But equal storytelling credit goes to fast-rising stars Yelchin (Star Trek) and Jones (Brideshead Revisited), who immersed themselves in deep improvisatory work with their director to arrive at such a palpably real, universally identifiable manifestation of young love in all its ecstasy and agony. (The movie had no set script.)
There's no accounting for chemistry, of course, not only in the success of love affairs and movie-star pairings but also in the way audiences respond to onscreen romance. One viewer's delight in (500) Days of Summer is another one's antsiness with its structural tricks. (That's me.) With no such narrative artifice, no Love Story-ish terminal illness or other tragedy to stimulate audience tear ducts, and none of the mood miseries or big-name lures of Blue Valentine, Like Crazy tells the truth, simply: Love is thrilling. And just because of the way life happens sometimes love hurts. A-