Anna (Felicity Jones) is giving a presentation in her college writing class. Jacob (Anton Yelchin), a fellow student, is designing a chair in the back of the class but occasionally glances at her as she talks about how the internet has managed to bring about the death of journalism. The class ends and the professor has Jacob collect all the presentation materials from the students except Anna’s since she just went.
Anna leaves a letter on Jacob’s car expressing a desire to have coffee. Jacob calls her and the two meet up to have some coffee. Anna is a student from England who is studying on a student visa who hopes to be a journalist while Jacob is studying furniture design. They go back to her place, drink some whiskey and spend the night talking. Anna reads Jacob some of her writing and at the end of the night Jacob leaves. Anna stays by the clear door of her apartment and watches Jacob walk away. However, he turns around and looks at her through the glass. They put their fingertips against the glass and stare at each other lovingly.
Weeks pass and the two slowly become inseparable. Anna’s parents, Bernard (Oliver Muirhead) and Jackie (Alex Kingston), visit from the UK and the four go out to dinner. Jacob gets along swimmingly with Bernard and Jackie and they are glad that Anna and Jacob are being adult about their relationship. They enjoy whiskey together and at the end of the night, Jacob and Anna are dropped off at their new place. Jacob surprises her with a handcrafted chair, the first he’s ever made, which underneath is inscribed with the words “Like Crazy.” Soon after, she leans in and kisses him, telling him that she loves him like crazy.
Eventually, semester ends and Anna’s student visa is set to expire. Jackie tells her on the phone that she’ll only be home for two months and then she’ll be able to see Jacob again. With a day to go before her flight, Jacob takes her out to Catalina to enjoy the sights. She gives him a scrapbook that she’s made that has all of their best times together along with written journal entries which visibly move Jacob. He gives her a small token of his affection: a bracelet with the word Patience inscribed on it. They spend the night together and, in the morning, Anna decides that she is going to overstay her visa. They spend the next two months together and eventually Anna goes back to the UK for the wedding of a family friend.
Jacob awaits her eagerly and on the day she’s set to return, he goes to get her at the airport. She lands but is held at customs due to the fact that she violated her visa. She protests, claiming that she is just visiting for a vacation to see her boyfriend but they refuse to let her into the country. Jacob runs around the airport trying to find someone who will let her see her but she is forced onto the next flight to the UK and deported.
A few months pass, during which Jacob and Anna are unable to keep up the long distance relationship. The time difference makes it hard for them to talk as often and they settle into their new lives. Jacob moves into a rundown loft above his workshop where he creates furniture. Anna, meanwhile, is living in her own flat while working as a secretary at a magazine picking up her boss’s dry cleaning. They agree to break up, but in a moment of weakness, Anna breaks down and calls Jacob to get him to visit her in England.
Jacob arrives and it is almost like they were never separated. They spend time at her apartment and Jacob has the chair he made her sent to the apartment. A neighbor, Simon (Charlie Bewley), returns a George Foreman grille that he borrowed from Anna and the two talk in the hall. Jacob has a pang of jealousy and the two eventually get in bed. They have a difficult talk about whether they’ve seen anyone else during the break, with neither party giving a concrete answer. Eventually they decide to put it aside and just spend time together.
They visit Bernard and Jackie at their house. Jackie asks Anna in private how they are going to make their relationship work while Bernard and Jacob talk about Jacob’s furniture business, which is going surprisingly well. After dinner, they all play Balderdash together and a drunken Bernard tells them that if they were married it would save him a lot of money on the lawyers he’s hired to get Anna’s ban repealed since it would allow her to get US citizenship. Jacob is oddly taken aback by it and Anna sees that the thought of marriage disturbs him a bit. On his last day, he confesses that he doesn’t feel like he is really a part of her life. Merely a vacation. Anna rides with him to the airport but the ride back is terrible as all she can focus on is the happiness of other, newly reunited couples.
Jacob eventually starts seeing his assistant, Sam (Jennifer Lawrence), and Anna falls to the wayside. Anna slowly begins climbing the ranks at her work by impressing her boss, Liz (Finola Hughes), with her writing. Liz tells Anna that her writing reminded her of that time her husband lived in LA and she lived in New York City. She tells Anna that they would drive across country to see each other and take pictures in the same locations so that they could spiritually share their separation/journeys to one another. Sam and Jacob are at a dance club with a few friends when Anna sends him a text asking to speak. Jacob tries to be with Sam but it doesn’t work. He goes outside the club and calls her. Anna tells him that she’s never felt so intensely in love before and she cannot shake the feeling so they should get married so that they can be together. Sam sees him on the phone and returns back into the club. That night, he tells her that he’s sorry but he can’t be with her since she deserves to be with someone who will actually be with her 100%. She breaks down and tells him that she loves him before leaving.
Jacob lands in Heathrow airport and is greeted by Anna. They are married in a small ceremony with Bernard and Jackie as their only witnesses. They celebrate their marriage at a hotel but do not sleep together as they must be married for six months before they can get her citizenship approved. Jacob returns to America and returns in six months. They go to the US embassy but their request is denied on the grounds that the ban has not been lifted. Jacob gets frustrated since it’s been three years and there has been no change.
They return to Anna’s flat where he receives several texts from Sam telling him that she misses him and asks when he will be coming home. His only response to her is a request for her to call a client and ensure a deliver is made on time. However, when he goes to bathroom, Anna checks his phone and reads the messages. She asks why he never told her about whatever is going on with Sam and, despite his insistence, she doesn’t believe that nothing is going on. Eventually the tables turn when he asks if she slept with Simon and he begins screaming at her when she won’t answer. She tells him not to scream at her in her own house and he says he’d rather be at his house.
Six months pass. Jacob is in America and with Sam. Anna is still in the UK and has shacked up with Simon. Anna receives a promotion to junior editor while Jacob continues working. Jacob and Sam have sex and Anna has sex with Simon in an intercut scene where Anna’s bracelet breaks. After she and Simon finish, she stares at the bracelet with guilt. She texts Jacob while he is in bed with Sam telling him about her promotion. He congratulates her but when she tells him that she misses him, he can’t bring himself to text her back, opting to put the phone away. She waits for his response and eventually knows that it won’t be coming.
Simon blindfolds Anna after she tells him about her promotion and surprises her with a new chair. She asks about her old one and he tells her that it’s in the closet since he thought she needed a more comfortable, posh chair for her editing. They then call Anna’s parents and have a small dinner with Bernard and Jackie to celebrate her promotion. Bernard asks for some whiskey but Simon tells him that they’ve cut back on drinking because that’s all people in London do. Bernard is a bit disappointed and asks why there’s so much change. Simon tells them that he and Anna are trying to be healthier and do so by running every morning and eating better. After dinner, they attempt to play a game of Balderdash which never quite gets off the ground because Simon gives the most awkward marriage proposal in the world. Bernard immediately gets up to leave and so does Jackie. They say good-bye, which confuses Simon and afterwards it becomes clear that Anna will not accept his proposal. Jacob, meanwhile, has ended things with Sam and she leaves his apartment angrily without so much as a word.
Anna goes to the US embassy once her ban is officially repealed. She receives approval to travel to the US and visits Jacob. She sees the state of his place and is visibly taken aback at where he is living but says nothing out loud. She looks at jobs in the area but doesn’t find anything she likes, while Jacob doesn’t really seem to respond to what she says, simply focusing on sand papering a chair. She tells him that she’s going to have a shower and Jacob tells her that he’ll take one with her. While in the shower together, they each reminisce in their own minds about how it was before while close and hugging. Anna eventually opens her eyes and gets out of the shower with a cold expression on her face, leaving Jacob alone staring after her with a contemplative look on his own.
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