PARK CITY - Every year there always seems to be a movie or two that takes me completely by surprise and knock me for a loop. It's one of the joys of attending Sundance versus other film festivals -- the discovery of the truly unknown. Many of these films come immediately to mind. "Precious." "The Squid and the Whale." "Hustle & Flow." "The Kids Are All Right." "The Wackness." "Once." "Quinceañera." "Broken English." "I Am Love.""Blue Valentine." Another film will be added to the list this year, "Like Crazy."
More heartbreaking and endearing than recent romances "500 Days of Summer" or "Before Sunrise," "Like Crazy" is a film that will rock anyone who has had the chance to truly fall in love at one point in their life. I have no problem admitting I was bawling at least four or five times during the film and it was mostly for happy moments in Drake Doremus' triumph.
Initially set in Los Angeles with stops in London along the way, "Like Crazy" follows the intense and loving relationship between Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones) after the two meet in a college writing class Jacob is assisting in. Anna, who is British, is actually studying writing and wants to be a journalist. Jacob wants to become a furniture designer. The two fall madly in love bonding over Paul Simon's "Graceland" album, whisky and similar family backgrounds, but are torn when Anna's student visa runs out forcing her to return home to London. The night before she has to leave, however, she is so passionate for Jacob that she decides to overstay the visa hoping the consequences of her actions can be worked out later. Instead, it becomes the biggest obstacle for the the couple to remain together and becomes a key plot point within the film's storyline. With Anna unable to enter the United States, she settles into a job in the U.K. while Jacob starts what becomes a busy furniture business in LA. As time passes they try to move on from each other -- and as cliche as it sounds (it's not at all) -- their love keeps pulling them back. It's an emotional rollercoaster that the actors, Doremus and his D.P. John Guleserian pull off magnificently.
Best known for last year's Sundance entry "Douchgebag," Doremus makes many smart decisions throughout the film that are completely unexpected, but that make the emotional connection between the characters that much stronger. You purposely never view a scene of Jacob and Anna having sex. You rarely see them kiss or make out. You never see the moments when they decide to either break up or give each other space. Instead, he continuously focuses on the more intimate moments that bond the two. Sleeping in bed together, brushing hands, a knowing smile or simply holding hands.
Yelchin is fairly recognizable to most moviegoers for his role as Chekov in "Star Trek" and as a younger Kyle Reese in "Terminator Salvation." What many forget though, is his awards-worthy performance in 2006's "Alpha Dog" which demonstrated just how much potential he has as an actor. Still only 21-years-old, this is the first role Yelchin has taken that showcases legitimate leading man starpower beyond his obvious acting talent. Yelchin has always seemed particularly boyish (and could still play a high schooler if he had too), but in this case he's exemplary in transitioning Jacob from upbeat college student to a man trying to deal with the love of his life being miles away. Yelchin is also one of the biggest reasons the movie succeeds because he's one of the few actors (Marion Cotillard, Robert Downey, Jr., Andrew Garfield immediately come to mind) who can say volumes just by the slightest expression on his face. Many times it's his reaction as Jacob that is the heartbreaking moment in the picture. And, yes, I'm going there, If Yelchin isn't being discussed for possible awards consideration nine months from now not only will I be shocked, but it'll be a travesty.
The 26-year-old Jones isn't known to most American audiences except for her supporting roles in Julie Taymor's "The Tempest" and Stephen Frears' "Cheri." And yet, just like Elizabeth Olsen's work in "Martha Marcy May Marline," Jones' performance in "Crazy" will immediately make her one of the more sought after young actresses in the UK and America. And like Garfield and Carey Mulligan, Jones also seems to be of a new generation of English actors who are delivering a brutally honest acting style we rarely seen from their countrymen. Good show indeed.
Special recognition needs to be given to composer Dustin O'Halloran. His inspired score works wonderfully with the film giving it increasing emotional resonance without being either too obvious or forceful. Jennifer Lawrence is also superb in a small supporting role that really shouldn't be given away.
There is no doubt "Like Crazy" will be acquired by a major distributor over the next few days. When it eventually comes to your hometown, don't miss it.