6 YEARS Review | SXSW 2015

     March 19, 2015

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Relationships can have some serious highs and lows and writer-director Hannah Fidell digs deep into both ends of the spectrum in her third feature, 6 Years. Ben Rosenfield and Taissa Farmiga lead as Dan and Mel. They’ve known each other since they were kids, have been dating for six years and plan on building a life together in Austin after graduation. However, when Dan is given the opportunity to turn his internship into a full-time job in New York, their rock solid, loving relationship starts to fall apart.

Fidell made an especially strong impression with her SXSW 2013 award-winning film, A Teacher, so I couldn’t help but to walk into 6 Years expecting something similar. However, that’s not the case whatsoever. Perhaps it’s growth as a filmmaker or just Fidell flexing her muscles, but whatever you want to call it, 6 Years proves she’s a strong director with some serious range who can take material, highlight the heart and humanity in it, and turn it into a meaningful experience.

Whether you’ve been in a longterm relationship or not, you can’t help but to connect with Dan and Mel because their feelings for one another are so palpable. Mere minutes into the film, you’re convinced that they’re truly meant to be together. Fidell is a little heavy-handed when it comes to teasing the things that are about to test their relationship, but, then again, it is a movie. You know it’s going to happen the moment you walk into the theater and the film opens with an idyllic montage of Dan and Mel spending a wonderful day together. However, having a sense of what’s coming doesn’t make watching things fall apart any easier.

Not for a second do you ever doubt their love, but Fidell, Rosenfield and Farmiga do an exceptional job of delivering two different perspectives on the same relationship and then playing with how they affect one another. It quickly becomes apparent that Mel needs Dan a bit more than he needs her, but the film doesn’t just leave it at that. Despite what Dan’s mother says, it isn’t as cut and dry as just going with what’s best for his future. No matter what he decides, Mel’s going to be with him – either by his side or weighing on his mind. You’re rooting for him to take the job and live his dream, but you’re also hoping that they stick together and the constant back and forth keeps you engaged and invested from start to finish.

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Image via SXSW

Whereas A Teacher pairs its very serious relationship conundrum with a more muted palette, 6 Years is absolutely brimming with color and it gives the material a welcomed youthful buoyancy. Mel and Dan get into serious and even dangerous arguments, but Fidell manages to subtlety convey that even though their relationship may seem like the be all, end all right now, they’re still just kids and they have their whole lives ahead of them, and that little bit of hope is vital to the entertainment value of the film.

Mel and Dan are very bright, warm people, but they have darker moments as well. He’s weak-willed and she’s got a habit of throwing violent tantrums. It’d be easy for the film to get swallowed up by the all too familiar young adult entitlement, but thanks to Farmiga and Rosenfield’s layered performances, their behavior, even the worst of it, is justified. It certainly isn’t easy watching Dan take steps closer to giving into temptation or to see Mel sink into a deep depression, but between Farmiga and Rosenfield’s wholehearted work and Fidell’s dead-on visual choices, 6 Years does wind up being a worthwhile, thoughtful exploration of the disintegration of a loving relationship.

Grade: B+

Click here for all of our SXSW 2015 coverage or browse the links below to check out my other reviews:

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