'6 Years': SXSW Review

Courtesy SXSW
A tender but awkwardly imagined look at first love's dissolution

Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield consider giving up on young love

"Don't you get bored?," ask the friends of a young woman in a long-term relationship in 6 Years — the implication being that monogamy may be all right for the middle aged, but who would settle down while they're still sexy? Whether those questions (and other peer pressures) cause that relationship's downfall or simply predict it is the most interesting question in Hannah Fidell's film, a melodrama benefitting from excellent performances but suffering from a too-obvious script. Being exec-produced by the Duplass Brothers will help attract attention to Fidell's followup to A Teacher, but the pic's best hope comes from attention paid to its two talented leads, Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield.

Austinites Mel and Dan have been soulmates since they met, but with her still in college and him trying to start a career that could take him to another city, choices are looming. That's surely why they're growing more short-tempered and uncertain about each other: Early on, a fairly routine argument escalates and turns into accidental violence in a surprising way; in the emergency room and at work the next day, lines of dialogue seem carefully planted to foreshadow worse violence and/or legal trouble in the future between the two.

With Mel suggesting that the couple might spice things up with porn (neither she nor Dan seemed to find things bland before her friends started questioning her), Dan allows himself another kind of variety — he drunkenly kisses a female friend at the record label he interns for. That indiscretion stops before it gets started, but as soon as Mel says "can I borrow your phone?" at a party a few scenes later, we know exactly how things will go to hell.

Evidently worrying that the end of a beautiful affair isn't dramatic enough to make a movie, Fidell piles on action, a whole lot of drunkenness, and even threatens Mel with the possibility of rape in order to raise the stakes. None of it is necessary, especially with Rosenfield and Farmiga so tenderly embodying the joys and fears that come with thinking you've found "the one" years before it's wise to commit to each other.

 

Production company: Duplass Brothers Productions

Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Ben Rosenfield, Lindsay Burdge, Joshua Leonard, Jennifer Lafleur, Peter Vack, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Molly McMichael, Jason Newman

Director-Screenwriter: Hannah Fidell

Producers: Kelly Williams, Jonathan Duffy, Andrew Logan

Executive producers: Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass

Director of photography: Andrew Droz Palermo

Production designers: Annell Brodeur, Lanie Overton

Editor: Sofi Marshall, Carlos Marques-Marcet

Music: Julian Wass

Sales: Jessica Lacy, ICM; Josh Braun, Submarine

 

No rating, 79 minutes

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