Hollywood has given a black eye to the romantic comedy; romantic dramas are scarce. All the more reason to cheer Drake Doremus’ fresh, vibrant film Like Crazy, which is anything but a conventional genre piece. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones win us over as college students who fall deeply in love and then try to sustain that feeling when circumstances separate them. (After graduating from school she’s forced to return to her native England, while he’s establishing a business in Los Angeles.)
There seems to be no artifice in their performances; it’s as if we’re peeking through a window and observing a guileless, likable young couple, up close, as they experience the first flush of love, then suffer the anguish of physical separation and emotional distance. The actors’ work is appealing and beautifully nuanced; no wonder Jones won a Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film itself won—
—the Grand Jury Prize.
I was impressed with Doremus’ last film, the improbably titled Douchebag, which despite a shoestring budget managed to convey a sometimes-startling intimacy and firmly establish its quirky, original characters. (Its costar, Ben York Jones, appears briefly in Like Crazy and also shares screenplay credit with Doremus, although the actors improvised all of their dialogue.) This film is a bit more polished, but retains the naturalness of the earlier picture and the naked honesty of its characters’ emotions.
The seeming spontaneity of Like Crazy belies the filmmaker’s canny editing, careful choice of camera placement, color schemes, and structural underpinnings. All of this perfectly complements the actors’ striking and believable characterizations. That applies to the supporting cast, as well, which includes Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Finola Hughes, and Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead as Jones’s sympathetic parents. The pinpoint precision of their work, in just a handful of scenes, achieves more than most actors can with reams of dialogue.
Like Crazy is invigorating entertainment, and Drake Doremus is an exemplar of independent filmmaking. He’s already working on his next feature, and I can’t wait to see it.