Monday, 17 October 2011

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW: Like Crazy


"They were kids that I once knew..."

So I've been getting steadily more excited about Like Crazy since it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance earlier this year and ever since this trailer* was released a couple of months ago. I had a slight spaz attack (at work) when I saw it had been included at the London Film Festival this year, and it was top of my list of tickets to get. Quite frankly if I hadn't got any others except for this I would have been happy (I made a joke we should get tickets for both screenings...now it doesn't seem so ludicrous). Anyway we GOT tickets and this was my second film of the festival. And it seemed like it came out of nowhere and I had no time to prepare for watching it. But there was never a doubt in my mind that I wouldn't like it. It's just how much would I like it?

What I ended up going to was the European Premiere. When we got there, the red carpet was just winding up and Felicity Jones was being ushered inside. Then she and director/writer Drake Doremus presented the film, and came back to do a Q&A afterwards, which was amazingly brilliant and lucky. The perfect experience of seeing a film I have waited forever to see, and was going to see 4 months before anyone else in the UK! And Felicity Jones is a such a cutie, a British grace, and Drake a candid inspiration - the story of Like Crazy was not fictional.

Anna (Felicity Jones) is a British student studying abroad in LA when she meets Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and writes a love letter to him and sticks it to his car window. They start dating, and soon develop a passionate relationship and a deep connection to one another. But after a year Anna's visa runs out and she has to return home to London. Deflated at the prospect she makes a rash decision to stay on over the Summer so she and Jacob can spend all their time together. But after popping back home for a wedding, as she lands in LA to reunite with Jacob she is stopped at customs and told of her visa violation. She is sent back to the UK and banned from entering America. She never got to Jacob. Time passes: phone calls are missed; life becomes work and jobs after Uni. But then she tearfully invites him to stay with her in London, and they try and re-ignite that spark. But it's not the same, and they drift apart again, having to live in different countries. They start new relationships, but they can't break free of one another. Drastic steps are taken, heated arguments erupt, loyalties fractured - will they, can they, should they... give up all they have for one another, to be together?

This film is abundant with tiny moments in a relationship that are so staggeringly significant and real, it makes the experience special yet uncomfortably emotional to watch. Jacob is an apprentice carpenter, and one of the first things they share together is her showing him the desk where she writes, and reading him a poem that she's written and never shown anyone else. Months into their relationship, he builds her a chair, to be her own and to write on, with the inscription "like crazy". This gift, along with another - a bracelet saying "patience" - become parts of him once she is living in the UK, and when her boyfriend Simon buys her a new chair as a surprise (a tacky cushioned thing - and I thought he had chucked the other one in the tip!) and when she breaks her bracelet in an embrace with him, her apparent happiness falls apart before our very eyes as what really matters to her is disappearing.

Difficult truths and deep set frustrations burst out constantly -the most affecting being Jacob's "I don't feel like I'm a part of your life... I feel like I'm on vacation", which has stayed with me since the trailer. I find it heartbreaking. What I didn't realise is this film had no script - each scene had an outline, but it was up to Felicity and Anton to improvise the dialogue and the movement, and I find that astounding. They only had a week together to flesh out the characters of Anna and Jacob and their natural chemistry is remarkable. Jacob is the more likable ("I saved a cat from a tree once"), purely because Anna is more the culprit to dictating the mood of their relationship, but her performance is phenomenal. She is an unbelievably talented and emotive actress, and deserves to extend her Best Actress award at Sundance into the awards circuit in the next few months.

Every part is as wonderful as I had expected it to be but it's so inherently sad. I thought I knew what was going to happen but more than once I was surprised by the turn in the story. And when I guessed how it was going to end my already shaken up like a fizzy bottle feeling worsened and I started fiddling with my ring even more. The shower scene at the end will split optimists and pessimists in two. I'm surprised at my reaction as I'm an eternal optimist in love and believe you need to fight hard and work hard for it, but yet they made each other so unhappy. Are they bad for each other, or are they made for each other? Can they never be with anyone else as that will just be a waste, but have they lost what they once had for good? I go back to the poem that Anna reads at the beginning of their relationship and perhaps there's some hope in that. "I thought I understood it... but I didn't."

Plus there's this:



Replay, replay.

You've never seen a film like this before. It's so raw and more sad than I thought possible - if you're in a relationship you will identify with a part of it and it will hit a nerve. I felt quite subdued afterwards, but I'm already aching to see it again, and make every person I know watch it (and cry). It's young love/long distance love/fairytale love... "we mythologised the relationship" - all the books they made of their relationship: ticket stubs, drawings, poems, diary entries... but real love is not so pretty and easy as all that.

Like crazy Like Crazy.

 



*the fact that I just re-watched that trailer and started welling up as soon as I saw the two characters and then properly had a little cry when Anna picks up the phone and says "hey" as her voice breaks has made me realise this film has got me now. It's special.


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