Zac was born on Christmas in 1960. He had a special relationship with his father Gervais, but things began to fall apart as Zac's non-masculine ways started to show. Their unique relationship officially came to an end when Gervais comes home to find Zac dressed in his mother's clothes. Ever since then, he "had unwittingly declared war on his father".
At the Christmas party in 1975, Zac shotguns a joint with his cousin Brigitte's boyfriend Paul, which sparks Zac's attraction. His friend Michelle tries to kiss him, but Zac stops her with the excuse of protecting their friendship. Later on, he discovers that Brigitte is no longer with Paul. In a moment of spontaneity, Zac runs a red light on his motorcycle, only to be struck by a car and hospitalized. Zac later learns that Brigitte is back with Paul.
Zac begins a relationship with Michelle, temporarily relieving Gervais — until he sees Zac stepping out of the car with a male classmate, adjusting his crotch. Angry, Gervais has Zac see a therapist to "cure" him of his homosexuality. The therapist's conclusion was that Zac made "a subconscious deliberate mistake", intentionally doing it so that Gervais would catch him and find out he was gay.
At the Christmas dinner in 1980, Zac and Michelle's relationship has become closer and more physical. His brother Christian announces his engagement. At Christian's wedding reception, Zac and Paul shotgun a joint outside, but are seen by a guest who thought they were kissing. Gervais overhears this gossip, and chaos ensues. Gervais confronts Zac in the pouring rain, and Zac admittedly comes out, yelling that while he was not kissing Paul, he wished he had been. A sobbing, eavesdropping Michelle runs out of hiding, and Gervais tells Zac to leave. Zac flies to Jerusalem. Disgusted with himself after a gay sexual escapade, he walks into the desert and collapses in exhaustion. A Bedouin, who found Zac, drips water on Zac's face and takes Zac into his care.
Zac returns home to find his second eldest brother hospitalized after a heroin overdose, who dies the next day. After the funeral, Gervais hugs Zac emotionally. Ten years after his brother's death, Zac narrates that Gervais "had become my father once more", even to the point of allowing his lover into his house.Marc-André Grondin as Zachary Beaulieu
Michel Côté as Gervais Beaulieu, the father
Danielle Proulx as Laurianne Beaulieu, the mother
Pierre-Luc Brillant as Raymond Beaulieu
Alex Gravel as Antoine Beaulieu
Maxime Tremblay as Christian Beaulieu
Mariloup Wolfe as Brigitte, Zac's first cousin
Francis Ducharme as Paul, Brigitte's boyfriend and interest of Zac's
Director Jean-Marc Vallée conceived of the film when he and his wife met François Boulay while staying in a cottage in the Eastern Townships, Quebec. Boulay told them about his childhood and four brothers, with memories Vallée found sometimes amusing and sometimes concerning. At Vallée's urging, Boulay later mailed Vallée a screenplay draft called Random Souvenirs of my Life based on his childhood, totaling 100 pages. Vallée added elements about the mother character and began shaping a song list. After seeing Good Will Hunting (1997), Vallée considered setting the film in Boston, but actor Michel Côté read the screenplay and persuaded Vallée that it was a fundamentally Quebec story.
Vallée and Boulay worked on the screenplay for five years, finishing by November 2000. The projected budget of $8.9 million had to be reduced to $7.3 million before some sponsorship from Telefilm Canada could be secured.
Shooting began in April 2004, but when the project ran out of money, filming temporarily ceased in the summer. Michel Côté made a personal donation to restart the project.
Sets were generally inexpensive, though the film did require a large portion of the budget for special effects. Art director Patrice Vermette made many decorations for the sets accurate for the periods. In addition to being set in Montreal, Montreal was used as a filming location. The scenes set in Jerusalem were filmed in Essaouira, Morocco, with the sand located one kilometre from the city being employed for desert shots.
Nearly 10% of the budget was spent on acquiring song rights for the soundtrack, with the cost being $600,000. Producers spent two and a half years obtaining the rights for all of them, and Vallée surrendered his salary to help pay for them. Period music is an important element of the film, highlighting characters and recurrent themes and events in Zac's coming of age. The soundtrack includes songs by Pink Floyd ("Shine On You Crazy Diamond," "The Great Gig in the Sky"), The Rolling Stones ("Sympathy for the Devil"), David Bowie ("Space Oddity"), Jefferson Airplane ("White Rabbit"), The Cure ("10:15 Saturday Night"), Giorgio Moroder ("From Here to Eternity"), Elvis Presley ("Santa Claus Is Back in Town"), and many others. "Sympathy for the Devil" alone cost $138,000, as it is used for two minutes, 25 seconds.
The Charles Aznavour song "Emmenez-moi" is repeated over and over in the film, often sung by the father. He also sings another Aznavour song — "Hier Encore", as part of Zac's 20th birthday celebrations. The title derives from the first letter in the names of the five brothers: Christian, Raymond, Antoine, Zachary and Yvan, and also refers to their father's abiding love of Patsy Cline's song "Crazy", which itself is used as a recurring motif in the film.
C.R.A.Z.Y. was rejected for competition in the 2005 Cannes Film Festival in April. It opened on 75 screens in Quebec on 27 May 2005. The film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2005. and the Marrakech International Film Festival in Morocco in November 2005. It played in Toronto theatres in October, and opened in Vancouver on 25 November.
By the film's screening at the AFI Fest in November 2005, distribution was sold to 40 countries. The film never had a general theatrical release in the United States, aside from film festivals. U.S. distribution rights issues were posed by the film's use of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd.
C.R.A.Z.Y. was initially released on DVD in Quebec in October 2005, followed by TVA Films' English-language Canadian DVD in April 2006. When Vallée learned the special features on the latter did not have English subtitles, he and TVA Films planned a corrected two-disc English DVD for November.
In its first two weeks, C.R.A.Z.Y. grossed $2 million in Quebec alone. After seven weeks, the provincial gross reached C$3.6 million. By October 2005, the film made nearly $6 million in Quebec theatres, placing second in the summer season provincial box office to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. By March 2006, the film made over $6.2 million in Canadian theatres. By that time, the gross outside of Quebec was $300,000.
The film finished its run grossing $6.2 million in Quebec alone. It was the third highest-grossing film in Quebec in 2005, following Revenge of the Sith and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
In Canada, Susan Walker of The Toronto Star assessed the film as "moving, funny, truthful." Martin Bilodeau praised the film in Le Devoir for its ambition and magic. In Exclaim!, Allan Tong praised it as "a funny, infectious ride through Quebecois pop culture of the '60s and '70s", and honest with vitality.
Liz Beardsworth from Empire positively reviewed the film for its acting, citing Marc-Andre Grondin and Michael Coté, and wit. Jay Weissberg from Variety declared it a "bouncy coming-of-age tale" with great music and capable performances from Cote and Grondin. Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C+, with Jeff Labrecque writing it lacked character development. Writing for BBC, Jamie Woolley remarked on the stylistic photography, found a few scenes overlong but concluded the film added up to more than the value of each scene combined.
C.R.A.Z.Y. has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 18 reviews. In 2015, the Toronto International Film Festival placed C.R.A.Z.Y. eighth in the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time.
The film was submitted for consideration for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but was not nominated.