Like Crazy, Drake Doremus, 90 mins (12)
The Grey, Joe Carnahan, 117 mins (15)

The pain of young love thwarted is nothing to the relief at leaving it all behind

Judged on its premise alone, Like Crazy could be any old romantic comedy.

Its star-crossed lovers, Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, fall for each other just before they graduate from a Los Angeles university, but when Jones outstays her visa, and then tries to return to the US after a trip home to England, she isn't allowed back into the country. Much like Drew Barrymore and Justin Long in Going the Distance, Jones and Yelchin have to work out whether they can stay together when they're thousands of miles apart.

At this point you might expect Like Crazy to wheel on the laddish flatmates/gay neighbours to dispense advice and wacky subplots. But it doesn't. One thing that distinguishes it from Going the Distance et al is that it concentrates so intently on its protagonists, as they butt heads with immigration officials, and struggle with paranoia and irritability. Some reviewers have asked why Yelchin can't just move to the UK, but the film is mature enough to acknowledge that even people who are madly in love can have other things going on in their lives: Yelchin is establishing a business as a furniture designer in Los Angeles, while Jones is getting started as a journalist in London. Yes, they're desperate to give their relationship a chance to flourish, but do they want to be tied to one another at their age? Their hesitation is just one example of how uncomfortably honest Like Crazy can be.

The film is a low-budget comedy-drama written and directed by Drake Doremus, who based the story on his own experiences, and who is young enough to remember precisely how it felt. The dialogue is improvised, but instead of resulting in the babbling one-upmanship found in Judd Apatow's comedies, the technique makes for exchanges that sound like actual conversations. Much of the credit for this authenticity should go to the film's fine cast, including Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead as Jones's parents – the sort of parents who want to be their daughter's best friends – and Jennifer Lawrence as a colleague of Yelchin's. But the real revelation is Jones, who always seems nakedly genuine, even as she grows from giggly student to polished woman-about-town. It's impossible not to be charmed by the excited little dance she does when a present from her beau arrives in the post. Indeed, the film's weakness is that Yelchin's character is so reserved in comparison that we can't quite see why he inspires such adoration.

That quibble aside, Like Crazy stands up as a rich, personal love story, but also as a piquant distillation of what the young go through when they leave college pumped full of hopes and fears, before deflating slowly into adult stability. In some ways, it's the film that last year's One Day should have been. If you're older than Jones and Yelchin, you'll be simultaneously nostalgic and relieved that you're no longer living that life.

Liam Neeson plays to his newly minted action-hero image in The Grey, an Arctic-set survival thriller directed by Joe Carnahan. As one of the few people to walk away after a plane smashes into the Alaskan tundra, it's up to him to help the others fend off starvation, frostbite and wolves.

After its nerve-knotting crash sequence, The Grey lets some of its intensity seep away over the course of two talky hours: it's hard to invest in a life-and-death battle with the elements when the participants keep sitting around campfires, quoting poetry and reminiscing about their loved ones. On the other hand, it's a surprisingly tough and sober film, given that the last one Neeson and Carnahan made together was The A-Team. Shot largely in the open air and the freezing cold, it looks real enough to make you wish you had another jumper on, and it certainly convinces you that Neeson, with his gruff Irish authority and brick-wall physicality, is the man you'd want to have standing between you and a hungry wolf.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber surveys the wreckage left by Roman Polanski's latest, Carnage

Also Showing: 29/01/2012

Intruders (100 mins, 15)

A boy in Spain and a girl in England are both menaced by a monster named Hollowface. He isn't very menacing, unless you're scared by a supernatural anorak that hops out of the window whenever it's confronted by the girl's father, Clive Owen.

House of Tolerance (120 mins, 18)

Sure to be a favourite of teenage boys who happen upon it on Film4, Bertrand Bonello's elegiac depiction of life in a belle époque brothel boasts acres of slender young women lolling around in their corsets. But there's not much of a plot to distract those teenage viewers.

A Monster in Paris (90 mins, U)

Also set in early 20th-century Paris, Bibo Bergeron's cluttered cartoon features a giant flea with a beautiful falsetto (Sean Lennon's falsetto, to be exact), among far too many other elements.

Patience (After Sebold) (90 mins, 15)

In Grant Gee's haunting documentary, various writers and artists pay tribute to the author WG Sebald and his influential book, The Rings of Saturn. I'm happy to report that one of his most piercing insights came to him while he was in a pub reading The Independent on Sunday.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum