Sundance Film Festival - 2011 - Like Crazy
Crispy Films

Another Sundance alum, Winter's Bone star Jennifer Lawrence, heads back to Park City with Like Crazy, a long-distance relationship drama, with a twist. Anton Yelchin, who co-stars with Lawrence in the Mel Gibson-Jodie Foster film The Beaver, co-stars along with British actress Felicity Jones.

Deeply felt first-love tale offers convincing performances and a fine-tuned storytelling sensibility.

PARK CITY -- (U.S. Dramatic Competition) Bruisingly bittersweet and made with the kind of tenderness that suggests a deep personal significance, "Like Crazy" chronicles a young love so deep it doesn't die even when, perhaps, it should.

Its elliptical construction and avoidance of melodrama may disqualify it for the most mainstream audience, but the film's undeniable beauty shouldn't be a tough sell to moviegoers who can take some actual pain (as opposed to contrived rom-com obstacles) along with their romance.

Drake Doremus's follow-up to last year's Sundance entry Douchebag, it expands on the sensitivity that lurked, surprisingly, behind that film's provocative title. Professionalism is at a higher level on all fronts, yet the feel remains intimate.

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones play Jacob and Anna, college students in L.A. who fall for each other shortly before the latter is to return to her native London. Their first encounters are almost impossibly sweet, so much so that viewers may involuntarily hold their breaths when, under the covers, Jacob eventually asks, "what are we going to do after graduation?"

Those with a few more years under their belts know the answer, but Jacob and Anna struggle nobly against the inevitable. Sadly, their determination -- at the last minute, Anna decides to overstay her visa, meaning that when she does go home for a family visit she's not allowed to come back -- worsens the situation. Their relationship becomes an on-again, off-again long-distance affair.

The movie steps across months without transition, moving from blissful reunions to periods when each is seeing someone else and back again. Transcontinental text messages from one dampen the other's budding new relationship; pleas and plots to make things work nourish unwarranted optimism.

Throughout, the filmmakers and the cast refuse to make thorny emotions hyperbolic. Jealous questions are inevitable when the two reunite after months apart, but (initially, at least) they are underplayed, with just enough said and unsaid to create invisible layers between the two.

Doremus and co-writer Ben York Jones (one of Douchebag's stars) slice out almost all the arguments and painful decisions that move the lovers from one stage to another, creating a vast distance between the two whose development feels remarkably gradual given the picture's slim running time. Like Crazy ends ambiguously, as it should, suggesting that even if the two never contact each other again, it will be a long time before this love fades completely.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, U.S. Dramatic Competition
Production Company: Super Crispy Entertainment
Cast: Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlie Bewley, Alex Kingston, Oliver Muirhead, Finola Hughes, Chris Messina, Ben York Jones, Jamie Thomas King
Director-Screenwriter: Drake Doremus
Screenwriter: Ben York Jones
Producers: Jonathan Schwartz, Andrea Sperling
Executive producer: Zygi & Audrey Wilf
Director of photography: John Guleserian
Production designer: Katie Byron
Music: Dustin O'Halloran
Costume designer: Mairi Chisholm
Editor: Jonathan Alberts
Sales: UTA
No rating, 89 minutes