Yesterday, I, like many others, was shocked and deeply saddened to hear about the passing of actor Anton Yelchin. I still am. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, I guarantee you know his face. He started acting as a child and was in 45 films and 16 shows. No matter what he was in, his sincerity always shown through. At 27, he had already amassed a legendary career.
So, in honor of Anton Yelchin, I decided to explore Drake Doremus’s 2011 relationship drama, Like Crazy. The film follows Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin), two college students in Los Angeles in the beginnings of a relationship. There’s one problem though – Anna is British and only in America on a student visa. She breaks the terms of her visa and as such, is banned from traveling to the U.S. What continues is a picture of their relationship over the course of a few years – the agony of being separated from the one they love, the elation at their reunion, and the frustrations of figuring out how to make it work.
I first saw this film back when it came out in 2011. At the time, it didn’t strike much of a cord with me. I don’t think I was old enough to appreciate it. After watching the film again, I was struck by how much is conveyed without words and how much I loved that – which is strange, because I love WORDS. Nonetheless, Doremus accomplished something special with this film beyond casting two extraordinarily talented young leads. He made us feel it. We went through all the emotions along with the characters – the butterflies, the laughter, and the tears.
Doremus’s film is intimate, which is what sets it apart from other films of this kind. It may have imperfections, but the actors and the style make it worthwhile. Here are just a few reasons you should take a look if you haven’t seen it:
Notable directors have said that a good part of directing is casting. In this case, that is 100 percent true. Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin give breakout performances in this film. They are nuanced and simple and extremely vulnerable.
Felicity Jones is instantly likable, from the moment she puts a love note under Jacob’s windshield. This was one of her first roles, but you wouldn’t know it watching her. She seemed completely comfortable baring her soul. She’s obviously gone on to some great things including the upcoming, highly anticipated Star Wars spinoff Rogue One.
It made me so sad to watch Anton Yelchin in this film because he was so extraordinarily talented. His performance was understated and brilliant. One look from him held a thousand words. He went on to great things, starring in J.J. Abrams Star Trek series as Chekov as well as starring in numerous indie films including Rudderless, 5 to 7 and Green Room.
The supporting cast is less strong, but to be honest, their roles are so limited, it doesn’t matter much. The one who does shine is a young Jennifer Lawrence in one of her first roles. You want to hate her because she’s one of the obstacles between Jacob and Anna, but you can’t. Lawrence takes her limited part and actually makes her sympathetic.
Most movies of this kind drown their films in pop music, but what this film does is different. The music is almost like another character in the film, making the emotional moments even more poignant. The song that encapsulates the film for me is “Dead Hearts” by Stars.
The Writing and Direction
Apparently, the screenplay co-written by Drake Doremus, was apparently more of an outline than a script. Yelchin and Jones improvised a good portion of their lines, giving the film a naturalistic feel. The film is all subtlety. There are no big, ridiculous plot turns. It’s a small story about a relationship and how far people are actually willing to go to make it work. There’s also a tragicness to the fact that they spend so much of the time trying to make it work, only to get what they want and possibly realize they don’t want it.
In addition, the lines that were written are excellent…
Anton Yelchin was just 21 when he made this film. His performance, as well as Jones’, are staggeringly good. The film community has experienced a devastating loss. However, we can take comfort in what he left behind. The magic of movies is that actors are given a sort of immortality. His soul and sincerity were captured in this film and they live on.
The film and the performances are well worth a watch. I’ll leave you with this poignant line from Roger Ebert’s 2011 review of the film: “P.S. Both of these actors are destined to become genuine stars” (Ebert). RIP Anton. 💔