This transatlantic indie-romance charmed the socks off Sundance last year – sparking an all-night studio bidding war and catapulting its British star Felicity Jones to the dizzy heights of Carey, Keira et al. It’s not hard to see why. Like a sweeter ‘Blue Valentine’, it gets under the skin of a relationship: will it or won’t it last? Here, it’s intoxicating first love, so there’s less at stake: no kids or nasty, raw disappointment to contend with, and no visible scars.
Jones is Anna, a British student spending a year at a Californian university. She has her eye on classmate Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and they exchange meaningfuls across a crowded seminar. She leaves a kooky note on his car windscreen. He calls. They meet. Back at her flat she wows him with a legendary come-on line: ‘Do you want a drink? I only have whisky.’ They fall for each other in giddy scenes snatched up-close-and-intimate on handheld (one too many montages of tangled lithe limbs possibly). In a reckless moment, Anna overstays her visa, but soon returns to London. And for seven years they back and forth, putting to the test that old line that distance is to love like wind is to fire: it’ll fan the flames or put them out.
The acting is mostly improvised – often a licence for pretension. Not here. Twenty-eight year-old director Drake Doremus has picked wisely: Jones and Yelchin give intelligent performances. Jones in particular pulls off the tricky feat of showing Anna ageing from year to year – from slouchy student in vintage dresses to glossy-haired junior magazine editor. In places, it teeters like a house of cards, all that flimsy, dizzily youthful feeling threatening to collapse in on itself. But it doesn’t. Doremus gently braves some bittersweet truths. Is it true love? Or is the reality less like the movies: a fantasy of being in love that Anna and Jacob can’t let go of?