Saturday, November 5, 2011

Like Crazy

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB () Roger Ebert (3 Stars) Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
Roger Ebert's review
Like Crazy (directed and co-written by Drake Doremus along with Ben York Jones) is an outstanding young adult love story that (in a field of ten) certainly deserves to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars this year, along with a whole host of other nominations including possibly best actor and actress in leading roles (I'm not sure they'd necessarily deserve to win but certainly ought to be considered for nominations).  Since Like Crazy is also by-far the best film that I certainly can recall where much of the cinematography was done using hand-held cameras, if it were up to me, even a best-cinematography nomination would be in order.  And tight as this picture is, with pretty much every shot and every scene had a purpose, a nomination for best-editing could be in order as well.  Obviously, I really liked this picture ;-).

Finally there's the movie's theme -- love and borders (and how Big Brother in the form of intrusive, ham-handed immigration law pushed by old, frightened, often racist, crows can brutally complicate and even destroy young lives) -- is something that I empathize with because I KNOW IT IS A LIVED REALITY FOR COUNTLESS YOUNG AMERICANS whose skin color and/or that of their sweethearts may be a few shades darker than the two eminently Anglo protagonists in the story (the non-American is even from England) but whose love and heart-ache is just as sincere.   

So then happens in the film?  Well, a student from England, Anna (played by Felicity Jones) studying journalism in Los Angeles meets an American student majoring in furniture design named Jacob (played by Anton Yelchin).  A hand held camera is perfectly used to express the jitteriness of their first encounters.  She makes the first move.  But soon they fall deeply in love.  As graduation comes, they have things planned out.  Her student visa is expiring, so she'll go back to England for the summer and apply for a work visa.  But on last the weekend trip that they take (to Catalina Island) before she leaves, she impractically (but in love) decides to stay the summer in the States anyway, return back to England for a family obligation at the end of the summer but come right back again "as a tourist" (because Brits and most Western Europeans don't even need to apply for tourist visas) and life would go on swimmingly or at least everything would "work out."

They spend the summer, as promised "largely in bed" (shown in a very lovely way by means of a rapid-fire montage of still shots showing them always in an embrace on said-bed in variously colored t-shirts and underwear).  At the end of the summer, Anna flies back for her family obligation, and flies right back as promised a few weeks later.  But ...

At the U.S. Customs at the airport after scanning her passport, the U.S. border official tells her that she violated the terms of her last (student) visa.  Anna tries to explain that she's coming now as a tourist and doesn't need a visa.  The U.S. border official tells her that it doesn't work that way. Since she violated the terms of her stay the last time, she has to return to her home country (even if it is the U.K.) and "resolve" this problem before being allowed to return to the United States.  And indeed, the U.S. border officials put her on a flight back to England and that is that.  Jacob, who arrived at the airport with a bunch of roses didn't even get see her, even though she was right there at LAX.  All he could do is follow her ordeal via cell phone and text messages as he tried very hard (and in vain) to figure-out what to do.

Much ensues afterward.  After all, theirs was not a casual fling.  They were truly in love.  Jacob flies to see her several times in England.  Anna's dad (played by Oliver Muirhead) gets her an immigration lawyer to hack her out of this mess.  During one of Jacob's visits, her dad, exasperated, asks out-loud, "Why don't you two just get married?  It'd get much easier then."  After some give and take over the next months, they do -- in England.  But when called to an interview at the U.S. Embassy a few months afterwards, they're told by the immigration official, that their having gotten married still wasn't enough, that the officials working out her previous visa violation still had to resolve that infraction before she could do anything.  How long would that take?   No one could say.  Years, perhaps.

Now Jacob now has a hand-made furniture business in Santa Monica.  Anna asks finally couldn't he just close it and go make furniture in London?  He answers truthfully (though there are other things going on as well) that it'd be complicated.  To close down a business (that he had struggled to build), sell everything and "start over in London" wouldn't be easy.   In the mean time, Anna having landed a job at a magazine in  London, now gets a serious promotion (mind you, the legal issues have gone now on for several years).  Both are young, attractive and running into other attractive people in their different parts of the world.

And just as their love, indeed their marriage, seems hopeless, Anna gets the call from her dad's immigration lawyer that her visa finally came through.  What would you do?

Millions of Americans, mostly young, but some middle aged and even with families are involved in cross-border relationships like this.  How awful it is for Government EVEN AFTER ESTABLISHING THAT THE RELATIONSHIP IS AUTHENTIC to stand in the middle and destroy young people's lives, and not just of the principal protagonists like those in this story but also of others around them.

This was truly a great story.  It's perhaps sad that it had to be told in the form of two alabaster skinned lovebirds who usually don't have endure this nightmare.  But if it helps express the damage being done by current U.S. immigration law to countless young people of browner complexions in this country, so be it.  It was one heck of a movie.

ADDENDUM:

Since the time when the first large wave of Catholic immigrants came to this country during the Irish Potato Famine, the Catholic Church in the United States has been always at least in part a "Church of Immigrants."  As such defending the rights and dignity of immigrants has been a perennial concern of the Catholic Church in the United States.  Through the USCCB's campaign Justice for Immigrants, the Catholic Church has kept this issue of alive in the United States even in the face of stiff and often very bigoted opposition which chooses to forget that the ancestors of virtually everyone in the United States arrived from somewhere else, penniless, as refugees or even as slaves in chains.  We also often choose to forget that the Holy Family itself had to live in Egypt as refugees for seven years (and we do not know if they "had their papers in order").  And we believe in a God who is the God of both the Living and the Dead, so God's love knows no borders.

Finally, the Servite Coalition for Justice to which I belong (I am a Friar Servant of Mary) recently prepared an "Immigration Rosary" offering reflections on the traditional Seven Sorrows of Mary in light of recent Immigrant Experience.

So this movie is a very good one.  I just wish the protagonists could have reflected the contemporary reality more fully by, frankly ... being cast a number of shades browner.


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