The new films Like Crazy and Weekend are unlike most romance films that come along. Yes, they are tales of two strangers meeting, falling for one another and the tension of whether or not they can remain together. However, the movies are largely less interested in the standard wackiness or the melodrama of Hollywood, hell, most anywhere, tends to settle into. Instead each resides in the deeper, complicated feelings – good and bad – of falling uncontrollably for someone.
Like Crazy is the better known of the two; a festival favorite going back to Sundance. The duo is Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and Anna (Felicity Jones). They both attend college in southern California, with Jacob plotting his career as a furniture designer and Anna longing to be a writer. They flirt, exchange deeply personal gifts and do all the other things young people in love do, with each moment of their growing bond shown gracefully by writer/director Drake Doremus. He concentrates on the lead’s faces, each glowing with delight and the kind of stupidly wide smiles only two people truly in love form. Jacob and Anna’s are doing great, until problems around her work visa in the States develop; leading to a permanent return to her native England. From there, Like Crazy focuses on the hardships of long-distance relationships. It all plays out over an unspecified amount of time, though it’s reasonable to believe its years.
Weekend, as the title implies, occurs over simply a weekend. This film’s love-birds are Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two men with very different viewpoints on how to deal with their homosexuality. Russell remains largely in-the-closet. His friends know he’s gay, even if he never discusses any details of his love-life, while co-workers remain uninformed. Glen, on the contrary, is defiant; regularly ranting about society’s carefully constructed male-female dynamics and regularly seen yelling at passersby whom might be in a judgmental mood. The morning after first meeting in a bar and having sex, Glen interviews Russell as part of an art project he’s working on about gay men’s thoughts on life, relationships and physicality. It’s the first of many ways these two challenge and learn from one another; it’s utterly compelling, sweet and carefully crafted by writer/director Andrew Haigh.
All four leads in Like Crazy and Weekend are stellar. Yelchin’s compellingly conflicted, Jones’ posture belies confusion, Cullen’s stillness revealing his shy nature and New’s intensity is perfect for his character’s bluntness. Together, along with their film’s creators, these movies present relationships that feel far more honest than usually seen on screen. The couple’s don’t simply meet-cute, have a pop-song play and then are set for life. There are meaningful, detailed conversations. This ought to go without saying, but when one knows why the love interests long for each other, it’s a distinctly stronger story.
Of the two, Weekend makes a deeper impact. For all of the good that is in Like Crazy, including a memorable supporting turn by Jennifer Lawrence that borders on heartbreaking, the movie drifts into some formulas as it nears its conclusion. The immigration issue at its core is a forced roadblock that loses the film some of its authenticity points. Additionally, its decision to show the breadth of the relationship – an amiable ambition – stretches some of the beats too thin. Weekend never stumbles in that regard. It’s almost brutally honest about that overwhelming tug finding somebody you love comes with. The film refuses to play by any stereotypical love-story rules, even up to its gut-wrenching finale.
Like Crazy is currently playing at Landmark’s 45th Guild Theatre & Weekend is available at Landmark’s Harvard Exit Theatre and is available to watch On Demand.