6 Years


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

6 Years
"Hannah Fidell's script shows the same sharp insight she brought to A Teacher, continually telling us more about the characters than they know about themselves."

Melanie (Taissa Farmiga) and Dan (Ben Rosenfield) have been together for six years. They're both in their twenties so that feels like a very long time; indeed, the average length of a marriage in the US today is eight years. Melanie and Dan are not married - they don't even share a home - but they spend almost all their time together and they've made plans together, plans set to encompass a whole lifetime. When things suddenly start to go awry, it's a shock to them both.

It begins abruptly, with a drunken argument. We've seen Melanie at a party, drinking heavily, thoughtlessly driving back to Dan's place. Initially happy to see her, he freaks out when he realises the risk she's taken. She gets angry in response and tries to leave, to get back into the car, so he restrains her; then she pushes him. Later, in the emergency room, a nurse politely asks how it happened. "I tripped," he says. Her expression, though obliquely glimpsed, tells us that's an answer she hears too often.

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Despite this potentially damning incident, there are no straightforward good guys or bad guys in this film. Even when, at a later stage, Melanie is assaulted by somebody else, it's not entirely clear what the assailant thought he was doing. She doesn't chide the friend who left her in a dangerous situation - they were both drunk, these things happen. There's that happy-go-lucky approach that young people take, not expecting very much of each other and often, as a consequence, not being very happy at all.

This carelessness, often from people who do care, sees small incidents and accidents spiral outward until nobody seems able to control the consequences. Both young protagonists are intensely self-centred and struggle to identify the things they might do to repair their faltering communication. Farmiga is superb as Melanie, plunging viewers into a world of pain, desperate to hold onto Dan as he finds himself drawn away from her by work prospects and his unexpected attraction to another woman. He's frightened by Melanie's neediness, unaware of his own need because he's never been tested. The audience is carried along on a rollercoaster ride; everything these young people do makes complete sense but, at the same time, no sense at all.

Hannah Fidell's script shows the same sharp insight she brought to A Teacher, continually telling us more about the characters than they know about themselves. Its astutely managed ambiguities lead us into uncomfortable territory and sometimes verge on the political, especially when we see how others respond to physical expressions of disharmony between the couple. Can there be any way back from here, even if Melanie and Dan really love each other? Do they love each other, or are they simply in the habit of expecting to?

6 Years is perhaps the smartest exploration of youthful romance that you'll see this year. Both lead actors are superb, delivering painfully naturalistic performances, and Fidell just keeps getting better, leaving one eager to see what she'll do next.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2015
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6 Years packshot
A young couple's relationship faces sudden, unanticipated turbulence.

Director: Hannah Fidell

Writer: Hannah Fidell

Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Ben Rosenfield, Lindsay Burdge, Joshua Leonard, Jennifer Lafleur

Year: 2015

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US


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