LFF Review: Like Crazy: Blue Valentine Light

LIKE CRAZY (12A): At The London Film Festival Thursday 13th October & Saturday 15th October. On General Release Friday February 3rd.Time and distance are two of the great challenges of any romance.  They’re both the subject of Like Crazy, a modern exploration of the perils of long-distance love.

Felicity Jones plays Anna, a British student studying to be a journalist in LA.  There she meets Jacob (Anton Yelchin), who’s studying furniture design.  The two fall madly in love and Anna deliberately outstays her visa in order to spend the summer with Jacob, only to be refused entry to the States when she tries to return after going home for her sister’s wedding.

Faced with the prospect of not being able to see each other, they’re forced into attempting to make their relationship work at a distance. When Jacob comes to visit Anna in London, they have a fight and split up – agreeing that they’ll remain friends but will see other people.  But even though they both meet new partners, they can’t seem to let go of their attachment to each other.

It’s a sort of Blue Valentine light.  Both films explore what happens to relationships as they’re degraded by time; when that initial honeymoon period is over and the practicalities of real life eventually set in.  Both are also films where nothing overtly dramatic happens; they’re about the steady passing of days, weeks and months.

Blue Valentine cleverly manages to frame both Cindy and Dean’s pasts and futures to heartbreaking effect – unspoken arguments, implied conflict, the accumulation of hundreds of little infractions and irritations built up over years; a testament to Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams’ acting skill and Derek Cinefrance’s direction.

Like Crazy never quite manages to pull it off.  There’s a frustrating lack of detail – they fall in love for seemingly no reason and while their first date is undeniably sweet, most of their relationship consists of staring dreamily into each other’s eyes and sighing.  There’s also a tedious over-reliance on heavy-handed metaphor – the chair that Jacob makes for her is inscribed with ‘Like Crazy’, Anna’s bracelet is engraved with the word ‘patience’ which eventually breaks.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to enjoy.  Felicity Jones is excellent and makes Anna smart but also vulnerable – she’s also got one of the most fascinating mouths in cinema. It’s also nice to see Anton Yelchin back on form (although he redeemed himself in Fright Night, his recent films have included Terminator Salvation, The Smurfs and The Beaver) who’s also endearingly sweet.  They both have great onscreen chemistry which actually manages to sell their relationship as believable until you start thinking about it a little.

There’s also some great support from Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead as Anna’s parents – the former stealing the movie with the best line of the film.  Jennifer Lawrence also makes a welcome but brief appearance as Jacob’s other half, in an unfortunately underwritten role.  There are also some nice directorial flourishes – a great “time-passing” montage while the couple lies in bed, a stunning scene where Anna walks out of her kitchen after an argument with Jacob only to walk back in to be with her newer lover Simon moments later.

Ultimately though, Like Crazy is unfulfilling.  It should be praised for taking a warts-and-all look at modern relationships (although curiously Anna and Jacob never use Skype or similar) but its characterisation is too mushy and shallow to have any lasting impact.

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