“I love you.” These three immortal words, now as battered as the movies that inanely slap them into the final scene, just don’t mean what they used to. After years of seeing the phrase emblazoned on random greeting cards and uttered by people who really don’t mean what they’re saying, it’s not hard to see why.

Like Crazy

At State Theater


Filmmakers have always pretended to understand how someone can muster enough courage to say the words with meaning. And most of the time, they’re wrong. But some movies manage to creep past our defenses and show us why the real world, no matter how often it tries to commoditize what we feel, really shouldn’t have a say in whether or not we love someone. “Like Crazy,” as timelessly heartbreaking as it is deep, is one of those movies.

At first glance, there’s nothing special about the film — it’s just a story of two college students, Jacob (Anton Yelchin, “Star Trek”) and Anna (Felicity Jones, “Soul Boy”), drawn to each other from first glance. No one is really surprised when the pair starts dating or when they inevitably fall in love. What is surprising is how quickly it happens, almost as if, within the scope of this movie, the two characters can’t exist outside the bounds of their relationship.

On paper, this can seem like a bit of a turn off. After all, who wants to see a movie about two grown individuals with separation anxiety over a long-distance relationship? If such a story is drawn out for enough time — and there are plenty that have been — the audience just ends up wanting to shoot the characters. But somehow, writer and director Drake Doremus (“Douchebag”) makes it work.

Perhaps it has to do with the choice to marginalize the script and instead rely on the two leads’ ability to improvise. The result is a more realistic dialogue, without any traces of a screenwriter’s wit or acerbity, that lets the relationship the two characters form breathe in our world, at a level where we can organically relate. Or maybe it’s because the only bad guy in this movie is the mean immigration officer, who bars Anna from returning to the U.S. after she overstays her student visa.

Neither one of the characters ever does anything really wrong. They remain faithful and only see other people after realizing Anna might never return to the U.S. It’s just a matter of circumstance stepping in between. But they’re star-crossed lovers, and with that cliché comes the realization that circumstance can’t keep the two apart.

Even though the years slowly draw out and the two quietly grow apart, Doremu shows us snippets of their lives apart and time together, weaving between those instances the sense that they’re still looking out at the horizon, waiting for the slightest sign of the other.

Despite the tropes, which at times can seem overdone, this movie can be interpreted as one final argument for true romance, including all of its little intricacies and quirks. More realistically, it’s a painful treatise on love’s naiveté and cruelty, how it has the potential to slowly tear apart everything it comes into contact with. But that’s OK, because love is worth believing in.

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