January 6, 2012 -- The immigration issue is a hot-button item in U.S. politics these days and there have been a few recent films that tackled the issue, such as the indie film, “A Better Life.” This film hits the issue from a different angle, a romantic one.
A Los Angeles carpenter, Jacob (Anton Yelchin of “Star Trek”) falls in love with a beautiful British student, Anna (Felicity Jones of “Brideshead Revisited”) who is in the U.S. on a student visa. A passionate affair ensues, complete with Anna's parents visiting the couple. Everyone gets along fine, until it Anna's visa expires and she has to go back to England. Anna won't be parted from Jacob and decides to over-stay her visa. Big mistake.
In post 9/11 America, such minor visa violations are taken very seriously. Anna is deported and can't return to the U.S. Jacob visits Anna in England after she asks him to visit, but this on-again, off-again relationship is hard on both of them. They both take up with other partners when they are on separate continents. Jacob has an affair with a co-worker Sam (Jennifer Lawrence of “Winter's Bone”) and Anna with Simon (Charlie Bewley of “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”). This further complicates Anna and Jacob's long-distance relationship.
With Anna's immigration issues at an impasse, and Jacob unable to move his business to England (he owns his own business, a carpentry shop where he designs and builds custom made furniture with a partner) the two are at an impasse. Anna finally calls Jacob and asks that he marry her. This had already been suggested by Anna's parents as a way to cheaply solve the couple's immigration problems. It turns out that marriage does not solve Anna's immigration problems. She is still barred from going to the United States. Anna is also pursuing a career as a magazine editor.
I can't imagine what it must be like for people in this situation, sitting across a desk from a bureaucrat who is in the position of evaluating the validity of your marriage, but that is the position that Anna and Jacob find themselves. They get very angry and very frustrated. Anna's lawyers get to work on the issue, but it is slow going with no clear time line for a resolution, or any guarantee there will be a resolution. They have already waited the required six months, and now must wait for an undetermined time beyond that. They are caught in a legal limbo.
The question the movie asks is this: Can Anna and Jacob's love endure this separation and uncertainty? Are they even still in love? How would their relationship have been different had they been able to stay together? Can you have a humane solution when dealing with hard-line stances and no-exception rules? The pain and anxiety of this situation is felt keenly, not just by Jacob and Anna, but by Sam and Simon, who must deal with the same uncertainty while Jacob and Anna are caught in a legal Catch 22. This film explores this complicated relationship from all four angles. These are not perfect people and they are certainly not in a perfect situation. All four characters are portrayed in a way that allows the viewer to feel some sympathy for them.
This film not only provides an effective love story. It goes well beyond that to examine the way real people deal with these kinds of problems. There are no simple heroes and villains here, just people behaving as people do. This film rates a B.
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