At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Like Crazy came out of nowhere to capture top jury honors and a Best Actress prize for newcomer Felicity Jones. No argument here. Director and co-writer Drake Doremus (Douchebag) has crafted a crazily inventive and totally irresistible tale of first love that makes the familiar seem bittersweet and heart-stoppingly new.
Anton Yelchin is outstanding as Jacob, an L.A. college senior who falls hard for the poem-writing Anna (Jones), a London exchange student. With graduation looming, the question comes up: “What do we do now?” Because Anna overstayed her visa, she’s stuck in London while Jacob forges his career in furniture design. Over the next seven years, the lovers couple and uncouple. She takes up with Simon (Charlie Bewley); he grows close to Samantha (a wonderful Jennifer Lawrence). And yet Jacob and Anna can’t let go. Should they?
That issue burrows into the corners of a film that runs a scant 90 minutes and yet never misses the crucial beats. Doremus provided an outline for his two remarkable young stars, but they improvised the dialogue, which rings funny, painful and unerringly true. Doremus knows the value of just being still. A chair Jacob designs for Anna mirrors the architecture of the movie, appearing solid and fragile almost simultaneously. Doremus is a talent to watch. And he has the good sense to let the camera stay close to Jones as her face reflects what words cannot. Jones is a marvel. Sundance couldn’t get enough of her. You won’t, either. Her performance grabs hold and won’t let go.