I know a same-sex couple who've been together for about 10 years. One of them is the citizen of another country. The other is from the United States. Together, they've spent the entire length of their relationship trying to figure out how to make their situation as legal and lasting as it can be while navigating the crazy, discriminatory immigration system of both countries. So watching a romantic drama about the plight of two 20 year-old heterosexual college students intentionally making a stupid mess of their visa application process in order to be together leads me to want to turn this into a five word film review. So here's that review: "Oh yeah? Try being gay."
But these characters are who they are and, thanks to their social privilege, their youth and their lack of impulse control, the British girl (Felicity Jones) and the American boy (Anton Yelchin) decide to spend the summer after college graduation rolling around in her bed rather than putting her back on a plane to England in order to comply with pesky student visa rules. They would have had to wait a mere 12 weeks for more of that handheld camera quiet-storm-lovin', but nope. They tempt fate. And he even bought her a bracelet engraved with the word "Patience," to make the summer go by faster. So much for that Zales purchase.
What fate has in store for them after this decision is a complicated period of government hassle, casual-to-not-so-casual dating of other people (the men in the audience will think to themselves, "Dude, you are now eating ice cream with Jennifer Lawrence. You think it gets better than that?"), expensive plane hops across the Atlantic and decreasing communication. And it's not like they were all that communicative in the first place, googly eyes and post-coital spooning standing in for conversations that regular couples might be having as they co-pave the lifelong road of love.
A digression about that: I'd like to make a new rule for on-screen couples. And the rule is that even in a self-consciously directed visual exercise like this, one where the camera shakes itself into believing in its own "naturalism," that the two people in question are now required to spend at least a few scenes having a discussion about something other than the direction of their relationship. A minimum of five scenes, let's say. They have to talk about politics or the stupid reality show they're both addicted to or jelly donuts or something. Anything. Because a fascination with a variety of upscale whiskies is all these two people seem to have in common, and even that is a plot device used near the film's end to demonstrate how shallow that shared interest was in the first place.
It is trying to break your heart. But it can't. The inevitable conclusion is like the one that always happens in a horror movie. The audience is yelling at the screen for the Final Girl not to go into the basement, but she does it anyway. And like her, these kids can't stand not to be in that basement. So off they go.
This movie does have one real purpose, though. It's the perfect film to force on a teenager after his or her first break-up, a lesson in How Not To Be In Love. So when it comes out on DVD, pick up a copy, hand it to the young person in your life whose well-being you care about and say, "Here. Watch this thing. Then do the opposite of everything you see."