Whenever I want to remember what it felt like to be in love, I watch the film Like Crazy.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and based on director Drake Doremus’s personal experiences, the film is an achingly accurate portrayal of a couple from two different countries, who struggle to be together no matter what, only to be ultimately torn apart by time and circumstance. On it’s own the film beautifully illustrates the all or nothing, highs and lows, exhilaration and despair of first-time love, couple that with the similarities to that of my own experience studying abroad and the fact that the boy in question and I watched the film together at its British Premiere at the London Film Festival and you can see why I fall for it every time.
Essentially it’s the story of Anna, a British college student played by Felicity Jones (who is co-incidentally an old school friend of my sister’s – something which I believe again adds to the emotional attachment I feel towards this film), who falls in love with her American classmate (Anton Yelchin) whilst studying overseas in the States. After violating the conditions of her student visa and staying for a summer of love Anna is deported back to the UK where the two attempt intermittently to continue their relationship long distance.
Anyone who has experienced a long distance relationship will undoubtedly relate to the achingly heart-wrenching scenes in which the two choke up and sob down the phone to each other, so torn up are they at their separation. I myself, can remember so clearly phone calls from Australia which were filled with such heartache and throat-knotting anguish and emails so ardent and heartfelt they were painful to read. And the airport scenes. The bottom lip quivering, longing goodbyes and the blissfully happy hellos: My God, I’ve had my fair share of those! Doremus captures them to a T. So good in fact that I half wonder whether he was there behind me at every sob-ridden parting; every elated reunion. Watching the film brings up such bittersweet memories, but provides some solace, at the same time, by reassuring you that what you felt back then was indeed love.
It does not shout LOVE at you, however, in a bold, brash, blockbuster kind of way. There are no grandiose displays of romance or scintillating sex scenes. And there need not be. For anyone who’s ever truly been in love can tell you, it’s the little displays of affection that mean so much (in the case of the film): the cute handwritten note, the bracelet with patience inscribed on it or the handmade chair. And then there are the looks: the soft, shy flicker of the eyelids, or the wry, curling corner of a smile. The ‘it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing’, or ‘what I look like’, or ‘who else is here’: the just you and I are enough’s. The low budget and particular nature of the way the film was shot provide a refreshing intimacy and realism that is so often lost in modern Hollywood blockbusters and the unscripted dialogue adds an authenticity to the characters’ voices. You genuinely believe they are in love. Or in heartache. Or in turmoil.
If they fail to move you, the music should do the job. The lilting soundtrack could stir even the coldest heart. Stars ‘Dead Hearts’ and Ingrid Michaelson’s version of ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ (both featured in the trailers) stand out as being particularly poignant pieces.
Although a story about young love it is told in an very adult way. It does not attempt to skirt over problems or cover up blemishes. And most importantly, it does not hide the ugly, at times agonisingly painful yet ultimately inescapable truth, that sometimes, despite our best efforts, things don’t work out. And you don’t always know why. Watching it in the cinema with my ex we both concluded that it was an ending we could agree with: honest and raw.
If ever I were to describe to anyone what it felt like to be so ardently in love that you would do anything and go anywhere compelled by pure emotion, I would show them this:
There is simply no other film that does the word justice.