The illusion of Closeness
Forbidden love comes of age in this modern romantic drama that eschews old concerns about protective parents and the wrong partners, for a timely and globalised take on the long distance relationship.
That the Internet and a less geographically tethered group of saplings has changed the way people meet and cultivate relations, is the worst kept secret in the world amongst the young. The movies have just caught up. The story of Anna and Jacob, who meet the old fashioned way while the former is on a student visa in Los Angeles, only to be separated when she flouts the conditions, moves into areas that will be familiar to an ever increasing constituency of techno-dependent lovers.
With great realism and understatement, Like Crazy reminds us that the globalised world provides the illusion of collapsed geography, not the reality. It sympathetically marks the limits of the new community, contrasting real world stresses and complications, such as would-be suitors who live on your doorstep and different social circles, with the idealism that comes pre-loaded with the new world; the notion that anyone can potentially be together, wherever they reside, if the heart is willing.
What marks Like Crazy as a superior drama is its steadfast commitment to realism. It’s blissfully free of contrivance. Anna’s decision to stay with new boyfriend Jacob, risking problems with US immigration, may seem convenient, but Felicity Jones, playing her over a period of 3 years, imbues her with credible naivety and the kind of cognitive dissonance that will resonate with anyone who’s ever let their heart rule their head despite an unawareness of the potential consequences.
When separated, the couple deal with the imposed hiatus as many would; first agreeing to just be friends to avoid hurt, then seeing others, then realising said others are a substitute for each other and so trying again. You’ve lost count of the movies where love rivals are loathsome and duplicitous but not so here. Anna’s Simon and Jacob’s Sam are both credible matches for the separated pair – Sam might even be better for Anton Yelchin’s furniture maker. You’re primed to root for the original coupling to be restored but often you doubt yourself and crucially, so do they. You believe in the situation and the couple’s mismatched feelings toward it.
Drake Doremus’ film is no cautionary tale; he doesn’t judge the young couple; but it carries a significant truth, namely that people can become enslaved to a dream, long after the conditions for its realisation have passed. Anna’s poem to her new beau highlights their problem; “the halves that halve us in half” describes that feeling, familiar to all new lovers, that the right partner makes you feel incomplete in their absence. Anna and Jacob are wedded to this idea long after changes in their personal lives have overtaken it. Their enforced separation distends their courtship beyond its natural length, they marry as a workaround for their visa problems and a means of avoiding legal fees – “It’d save me a lot of money” Anna’s father tells them, with the result that their relationship matures too slowly while the shackles are fast tracked.
The reunion, when it comes, is a solemn, nearly wordless affair; flashbacks of the couple’s first flushes of romance contrasted with the cold blue of the shower cubicle where they embrace as though consoling each other. The need to make the dream come true has become an end in itself; a dream deferred, a moment that’s gone.
Credibly performed and rich with an understanding of the potential pitfalls that accompany such couplings, Like Crazy will strike a cord with anyone who’s been lucky, or maybe unlucky enough, to meet someone settled elsewhere. A serious treatment of a seldom dramatised problem which is in turn, both touching and thought provoking. Romance isn’t dead but it sure has changed.
The 55th London Film Festival runs from October 12th-27th. Go to http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff for venue and ticket information. Don’t forget to turn off that fucking phone.