Movie nights with your girlfriend—it doesn’t get much less exciting than that. Well, unless the female half of the relationship appreciates a killer horror flick or testosterone-heavy action show as much as the next beer-chugging dude. In most cases, though, the ladies in our lives only suggest “date night at the cinema” when the newest Channing Tatum and/or Robert Pattinson movie opens, usually based on Nicholas Sparks bores or some other piece of excruciating young adult literature. You know, the romantic stories that instantly leave her asking you, “Why can’t you be more like that?” Because you’re actions and dialogue aren’t written by hack screenwriters, obviously.

This weekend, however, one of those rare, truly effective cinematic love stories opens in limited release, the Sundance Film Festival sensation Like Crazy, and it’s one of the best date movies you’re likely to see any time soon.

Directed and co-written independent filmmaker Drake Doremus, Like Crazy follows two college students—played by Anton Yelchin and the excellent English newcomer Felicity Jones—who struggle through a painful yet love-powered long distance relationship after customs officials prevent her from returning stateside, due to a visa violation. Through believably heartfelt and raw performances, as well as Doremus’ unconventional pacing and focus on smaller details (i.e., drunk-dialing, unwarranted jealousy) over broader sexual strokes, Like Crazy treats love’s ups and downs with tangible sincerity.

Complex recently chatted with Doremus about Like Crazy’s anti-Hollywood approach, how tequila refills helped the casting process, and why sex scenes are overrated.

Interview by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

Complex: Full sensitive-man disclosure: After seeing Like Crazy, I immediately wished I could find the right girl and fall in love. And I’m not sure why I’m admitting this to you right now.
Drake Doremus: [Laughs.] Exactly, man. That’s exactly what I want people to feel. I’m a crazy, crazy romantic, so I feel like the character of Anna [Felicity Jones] is, in a lot of ways, my perfect woman. She’s my fairy tale idea of the perfect woman, and the relationship, or at least what they have, is sort of a fairy tale of mine, too. It’s relationship utopia, if you will.

What’s so interesting about the response I had is that most of the film centers on the hardships and stresses of love, not as much the blissfulness.
Yeah, totally. That was the goal, to try to make something that’s totally honest, and not try to cover anything up or sugarcoat anything. Just do it as honestly from my perspective as I possibly could. It was difficult, actually. It was a very hard movie to make—a very sad, difficult, and emotional process, but I think, by virtue of putting so much of myself into the movie, that’s why it resonates so much with people. It’s honest, and I’m not trying to do anything other than say how I feel.

Did the difficulty come from having to pull from some painful real-life experiences?
Yeah, I think that, and reliving feelings. Myself, Anton, Felicity, and my co-writer Ben [York Jones], we all really put a lot of our past feelings into the project. We wanted to go somewhere where it hurt in order to make something that’s really authentic, so we did go somewhere where it hurts. Often.

Have you always been such a big fan of romantic films?
Yeah, man. It seems like I’m always gravitating towards more romantic stories, and I’m just compelled to try to find fresh and unique takes on such an age-old style of filmmaking. I think I’m just obsessed with love, to be honest, and it’s an unhealthy obsession. The only way I can work it out is to work it out in my movies. I’m obsessed with having it, finding it, holding it, maintaining it, losing, growing it—every facet of love. Every aspect of it is something in my life that I find to be fascinating. I can’t totally figure out why I’m so obsessed with it, so I guess, in a way, the movie is my way of working out my own feelings and what I’m going through.

Going into Like Crazy, Eternal Sunshine [Of The Spotless Mind] was a really inspiring movie to me; A Place In The Sun, from 1951, with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, I think is one of the best love stories ever told. Even the darker side of love appeals to me, films like Breaking The Waves and Punch-Drunk Love. So many great romances over the years have inspired me.

Like Crazy focuses on the younger side of love, something that’s usually handled in a pandering, CW-cast way by Hollywood. Did you have that “the kids need their own great love story” feeling in mind while writing the script?
Absolutely. If anything, I’ve been more inspired by the romantic films I feel have failed to capture anything that’s authentic in the last couple of years. There are a lot of movies, like you said, that I feel do pander and do sort of go for style over substance. They cast it off of what looks good on paper instead of finding who will genuinely resonate with audiences. I really wanted to try to get that right; I really wanted to create a chemistry on screen that would go beyond the cinema, make you think about the movie, and touch your heart.

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