There’s a movie out now called Like Crazy and it’s about the effects of distance on a romantic relationship. As I’ve had more of the long distance variety than I might have wished for, I was curious. Then I got a strong recommendation from Hayley, with whom I had an eleven year romance where only three of them were spent in the same city. I double checked against Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad – low to high 70s.
All the movie’s principals – director Drake Doremus and lead actors Felicity Jones and Anthon Yelchin were unknown to me. The promotion budget was whatever it costs to run off one poster per cinema. But it’s an engaging enough story.
A couple, Jacob and Anna, fall for one another in college. Both actors are a little underplayed and the movie doesn’t go for big, obvious lines or gags. Much of the dialogue was improvised by the actors, as it was in the marvellous Before Sunset. But the romance is plausible and both characters are likeable. She’s British and overstays her visa because she can’t bear to part with him just yet. When she returns to the UK, the overstayed visa prevents re-entry to the U.S. She tries once but is turned back at the LA airport. This established the distance.
The coping part is handled pretty well. Your life goes on but you don’t feel fully engaged. There’s a phone call to be made or received, a letter (email these days) to compose and the general sense that whatever outing you’re on would be life-meaningfully enhanced if your love were with you. While you try not to acknowledge it, you’re worried that your love will be swept of their feet by someone new; maybe a little more charming than oneself but definitely more available.
At home you’re out with your friends when it dawns on you that part of the early 20s social scene is the expectation, hope or off-chance that you’ll hook up with someone. But now you’re not interested; flirting is as far as you’ll take it, and some nights you find the wingman role uninteresting.
Your plans revolve around weekend trips or vacations to see the other. Finally they come but much as you want to see one another, there’s always a readjustment, some unnatural catching up, and reacclimization. Idle, relaxing time is at a high premium so it gets short shrift. Which doesn’t help because those languorous, aimless hours flesh out any relationship. Sort of like how dark matter has to exist because the universe would be impossible without it. On the other hand you go out a lot, it’s a whirlwind of activity and the sex is more than usually exuberant.
Then there’s the anxious days or hours before the trip back home. And the airport. The ride there is tense because you’re rechecking your passport, your ticket and wondering what you might have forgotten. Then it’s the inadequate parting, the realization that it’s way too much time till the next visit, followed by the disoriented, lonely trip back from the airport. Invariably you find yourself seated near an excited couple who’ve just reunited.
You face the recurring questions. How long till we’re permanently in the same city? Who would have to move and who, in terms of job, family, friends, cultural familiarity, gives up what? Does winding up in the same city imply marriage? Is it a pre-condition? Is this really the right person for the long term or just a good, open-ended relationship? Might I overly procrastinate and risk losing him or her to someone else?
Most of the above themes were covered in Like Crazy. They certainly were in my own life. In an ultimately unsuccessful relationship there’s never just one problem. But a big one in Hayley’s and mine was the non-agreement on who should follow whose career. The outcome was that neither was inclined to be the follower. And if I were the type given to wallowing regrets about roads not taken, I have the material for it. Happily, I’m too superficial for that.