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Last Tuesday, the LSESU Film Society organised the screening of “Like Crazy” (2011). This Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize winner is directed by Drake Doremus, starring prominent actors including Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence and Alex Kingston.
“Like Crazy” centres on the long distance relationship between Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin). Anna, a student from England, and Jacob meet at university in Santa Monica and fall in love with each other. With the typical passion and infatuation found in young love, Anna recklessly overstays her student visa just to stay with Jacob for the summer. This small mistake leads to far-reaching impacts on their relationship, as Anna is not allowed to set foot in America.
This realistic film explores issues relevant to our everyday life and modern relationships, including commitment, fidelity and compromise. In comparison to the old days when many people were happily satisfied with receiving letters every once in a while from their loved ones, both Anna and Jacob struggle with their commitment to each other in a world where phone calls, text messages, skype calls and plane tickets are readily available, as they become frustrated with compromising their own lives and careers for their relationship, such as by getting married rashly just to obtain a marriage visa. Viewers might sympathise with Anna, who sacrifices her passion for journalism and her long-awaited advancement in career to relocate to America after the visa issue is resolved, where she has to start from scratch. Meanwhile, Jacob is much more reserved in character and reluctant to make sacrifices for their relationship, such as choosing not to move to London to be with Anna and refusing to develop his furniture business in the UK, when moving across the pond would have been an easier route than sorting out the visa.
The film is loosely autobiographical, as it is based on the director’s eight-year long distance relationship with his ex-wife. Filmed with a Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera, which is often hand-held in the film, viewers observe how their relationship unfolds as if they are seeing an intimate documentary. Besides, the actors improvised all of the dialogue, which gives the film a realistic and authentic human touch that is lacking in most mainstream romantic films.
The substantial use of cinematic techniques is absolutely impressive in this low-budget film. One of the most visually engaging scenes is when Anna and Jacob spend the summer together. The director puts together multiple overhead shots of them sleeping and entangled in bed with different clothes and positions, showing time progression and their close intimacy.
Besides, there is an extensive use of motifs, such as chairs. As an aspiring furniture designer, Jacob designs his first handmade chair as a gift and a sweet gesture for Anna so that she can write comfortably. After she is forced to return to England, Jacob ships the chair to London as a surprise. Anna’s excited reaction and giddy laughter is certainly heart-warming to the viewers. In the latter half of the film, Anna’s new boyfriend Simon buys her a classy and sophisticated-looking chair to replace Jacob’s simplistic handcrafted one. With some vague words of appreciation, which are much less sincere than her heartfelt reactions when she receives Jacob’s chair, Anna promptly asks Simon where the old chair is. These minute moments showcase the director’s dedication to details and illustrate the characters’ mental state, such as their struggle between moving on and being heavily tied down by their past.
Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead also give a top notch performance in the film as Anna’s humorous and caring parents, lifting the film’s melancholic mood at times. Many moments of laughter are triggered by their lively actions and words, such as their warm welcome to Jacob, as well as their obvious distress and comical reaction when Simon awkwardly proposes to Anna after Jacob and her briefly terminate their relationship, not knowing she is still married to Jacob. They lift the often melancholic mood of the film.
‘Like Crazy’ is a film that is extremely easy for the audience, in particular for university students, to identify with. In this day and age, many students relocate from different cities or countries for their pursuit of education and work, leaving their partners behind. Whether or not you have experienced long distance relationships in your life, this genuine and thought-provoking film is bound to make you smile, laugh, or shed some tears for the moving story of Anna and Jacob. For people interested in film techniques and cinematography, the director’s subtle use of techniques, such as motifs and repetition, would also be worthy of attention.