It always interests me when a director approaches filmmaking in a unique way. For this film Doremus not only had no script when shooting started, but also insisted that his two lead actors remain in character during the whole shooting process. While I, to this day, think that this is a fascinating and potentially groundbreaking way to work, I feel that Like Crazy could have achieved more than it did with a more traditional approach.
The scenario of the film is certainly thought provoking. The film begins at what would normally be the conclusion; two young people have fallen in love. However for this couple it is not to start with ‘happily ever after’. When Anna’s (Felicity Jones) visa runs out they are forced to embark on a long distance relationship. What is interesting about this portrayal is how it treats Jacob and Anna as opposed to their other relationships. The time that the two protagonists spend together melts happily into montage and piano music. It is ethereal, and untouchable. The cinematic language of love: soft focus, spinning on a beach, fairgrounds at night places the viewer with Jacob and Anna as we see this relationship as “the one”.
Additionally, on closer examination the secondary relationships which they form away from each other are perhaps healthier, definitely more stable and with decent, kind and devoted partners. Yet Jacob and Anna, like the audience, believe in their true love. When they interact with their secondary partners the cinematography is flat and bland. It is almost imperceptible, this shift, yet it makes the relationships less glamorous, less beautiful. Doremus is exploiting the narrative properties of the screen to put us into the same state of mind as the protagonists. No matter how suitable their new partners are they are both drawn to the indescribable magic of their true love.
It is only when we see Jacob and Anna interact without mysticism that their relationship is truly striking. In the third act of the film they fight, it is a simply filmed scene. The camera is stationary and the shallow depth of field that has existed around them fades away. They are suddenly displaced from their fairytale romance and stuck in the harsh reality of living life. However, even as they fight, they are caring, they are both hurt by the same things and in the end it is concern for their relationship which has driven them to be angry in the first place.
Here is where the film needed a stronger script. While both Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin are admirable at portraying the happiness of falling in love with someone, they both struggle as the emotions become more complex. After a while it feels as if both actors are simply reciting clichés and platitudes in an effort to incite emotion, when the situation and the craft of Doremus called for much more subtlety. There are scenes where mere silence could have better expressed the pain felt, yet both seem to insist on filling these silences with more, essentially meaningless, words even when the message has long ago been understood by both parties.
Much as the film is about the struggles of falling in love it does still end on an uplifting note. After all the problems and years Jacob and Anna can be in the same place at the same time. We are never shown what becomes of them eventually but at least they get their shot at a future together and with a love that has been so clearly strong throughout it seems unlikely that they will ever part.