Here is a personal one for me: Like Crazy (2012). When I was at Loyola University Chicago, working the days away at earning my doctorate, I had a series of long distance relationships. They were the result my foray into online dating. I met people from New Orleans, Dallas, and Miami (to name a few), all while firmly ensconced in the Windy City (my true home). Such endeavors are tough. So much of our interactions with others are based on non-verbal cues that can either make or break a couple. Not being in the same city as somebody else, you are forced to build a future solely on conversations snatched from our busy lives. You know how easy it easy to video calls these days? That was not the case ten years ago when I was active in the internet dating scene. Thus if you have any hope of success, you need to plan expensive trips to far off places. And when you get there, who knows if the magic of those hours spent on the phone or typing messages will replicate in person? I do not mean to sound pessimistic. I know there are plenty out there who have gone on to marry those they meet under similar circumstances where that did not happen for me. The point I am trying to make is that Like Crazy embodies many of the frustrations I felt in those days.
When Jacob Helm (Anton Yelchin) meets Anna Gardner (Felicity Jones), he is a teacher’s assistant at their university in Los Angeles and she is a student. She makes the first move, asking him to coffee and they hit it off immediately. It is all well and good while they are college kids. However, not long after they graduate, she must return to England and he cannot immediately follow as he is busy building his furniture business. Because of their feelings for each other, she decides to overstay her student visa, a decision that is going to have lasting consequences. When she finally returns home, believing it to be only a brief separation as she attempts to come back shortly thereafter, she is barred from re-entry for violating the terms of her previous visa. Now they must get on with their lives with a continent and an ocean between them and somehow maintain their relationship in the face of a challenging time difference. At first they exchange phone messages, but they begin to drift apart. Then, out of a perceived sense of longing for Jacob, Anna asks him to come to England. He cannot stay, but they do decide to get married. They hope this would solve the visa dilemma, but the gears of government turn slowly and Jacob goes back to his business in the United States. Again, their feelings begin to fade, and they even take up with other people. Yet just when Anna is on the verge of moving on with her own career and possibly wedding another person, her visa situation is cleared up and she can freely travel to America. This brings back all the feelings of their struggles and she decides to go back to Jacob. He then admits to his new beau, Samantha (Jennifer Lawrence), that he stills has feelings for his erstwhile wife. The film ends with Jacob and Anna reunited, though definitely feeling the weight of all the heartaches they had gone through in the intervening time.
Interestingly, in Like Crazy the only time you see Jacob or Anna having sex (though nothing gratuitous or involving nudity) is with people other than each other. In other words, outside of the confines of their own relationship and marriage, though it is certainly implied that they did the deed together before their wedding day. This is probably not what director Drake Doremus was going for, but I like to think that it suggests that sex is best saved for the one you intend to marry (and as a Catholic, I also believe that it is best saved for marriage). More pointedly, though, the film also suggests that matrimony is best. Clearly they love each other. In Christianity, such feelings are seen to be a reflection of the love God has for all of us, which is why we have the sacrament of marriage. Sex aside, had they decided to be wed to each other after graduating from college, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble. Then again, I guess being young and stupid makes for good cinema.
Like Crazy is a bittersweet romance that is a good date night movie. It is also blessedly short, which is great. So many other romantic movies seem to belabor the point. I am looking at you, Pride and Prejudice. And in its short run time it will tug at your heartstrings, and that is the mark of any good movie in this reviewer’s opinion.