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.

NB

Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week