Movie Review: '6 Years' (2015)

There’s a reason the title to this movie is “6 Years” instead of “6 Years and Counting”, that’s because it follows the rapid decline of a pair of young lovers’ 6 year relationship. Opening on the sunny times of Melanie (Taissa Farmiga), more popularly referred to as Mel, and Dan (Ben Rosenfield) things seem to be going swimmingly for the couple. Little do they know a cloud is on the horizon and a storm is about to break. A lifestyle spent frolicking with friends, going to parties and getting wasted has its consequences.

When Mel drives home drunk, Dan attempts to wrestle the car keys out of her hands to keep her from doing it again, a scuffle breaks out and she ends up shoving him into an armoire. An angry skirmish soon resolves with a plethora of apologies from Mel and it appears an isolated incident of violence won’t be enough to break them up.

What appears to manifest at first, as a cautionary tale of domestic violence with the less often portrayed gender as the perpetrator, soon dissolves into an angst driven hipster narrative on two kids way too young and immature to get serious about life or each other.

Mel and Dan are surrounded by aimless friends who only want to get high, drunk and party. The adults in Dan’s life are his employers and while they are technically legal adults, they behave more like big kids. The thing is, no one in this story really wants to embrace adulthood. They take greater solace in empty partying.

The biggest obstacle facing Dan and Mel's relationship is that their life goals simply don’t intersect and neither are ready to acknowledge that when the movie begins. Mel wants to be an elementary school teacher, settle down in Austin, marry Dan and raise a family. Dan wants to work for the record label he’s interning at; living concert to concert, discovering new indie bands to sign.

Mel isn't self-aware enough to realize she lacks the emotional maturity to achieve her goals. She makes poor decisions (i.e. drinking and driving), has unhealthy habits and a bad temper. Dan, while seeming to be the victim of his girlfriend’s righteous anger is a clever manipulator.

He makes huge mistakes and then turns himself into a victim by getting her angry enough to lose her temper, so she'll eclipse his misdeeds, and end up being the one to apologize. His exploitation of her temper is what keeps him in control and there’s never any doubt as to who’s running the show in the relationship. She’s more scared to lose him than the other way around.

You can’t help root for them when the movie first begins because everyone else is so against them and not because they have necessarily caught onto the dysfunction that exists within their relationship, peers and commentators simply want them to try out different people.

The biggest sin according to them isn’t the excessive drinking, hard partying or smoking; it’s monogamy. What never seems to dawn on either of the protagonists is that none of the people advising them on how to be happy seem to be all that happy themselves.

In truth, neither of the lead characters are likable people. The relationship their peers look down on as lasting too long and a parent believes to be holding their son back, is in fact a very shallow one. Mel and Dan never demonstrate a deep understanding of each other, share meaningful conversations or do an activity that doesn’t include becoming inebriated.

As a good conversation starter for parents, it serves a purpose. Otherwise it joins the ever increasing genre of hipster geared movies such as “Palo Alto,” “The Lifeguard,” “Very Good Girls,” and “Celeste and Jesse Forever” which have attempted to solve the most minute of first world problems, whilst promulgating the flimsy philosophy and judgmental logic espoused by its pseudo intellectual protagonists.

Director/screenwriter Hannah Fidell’s keeps the pace flowing, though the action is so mundane it’s hard to get lost in what occurs. The overall goal seems to be capturing something cinematic, banal and voyeuristically intriguing, all at the same time.

A major flaw afflicting its peephole approach is its cinematography, which gets inordinately close to the actors' faces and swirls around in never ending, repellent motion. The grainy wash doesn’t help either. Bleeding the color out of the film only serves to manufacture a gritty veneer the script doesn’t contain.

Relying on the performances of its leads, “6 Years” culls raw and vulnerable performances from its stars. However, it’s Taissa Farmiga who does most of the heavy lifting. As promising of an actress as Farmiga is, she has yet to find that one part that truly showcases her talents or pushes her to explore her full potential.

In “6 Years,” she finds a role that gives her the chance to show off a fragment of the promising actress who stole scenes with her bit part in “The Bling Ring,” and supporting role in “At Middleton.”

Farmgia handles the material in “6 Years” with a naturalism that makes the events unfolding feel uncomfortably real. While her and co-star Ben Rosenfield’s interaction is credible enough to make for a believable on-screen coupling, complete with the gooey trademarks of college kids’ unbridled affection.

With a brief runtime, "6 Years" is not a huge time investment. It offers valuable talking points about the quick escalation transgressions can have and the life altering chain reaction of poor judgement. For fans of series like “Friday Night Lights”, the Texas location and ad libbed atmosphere will sting with a nostalgic familiarity.

Tacking on an abrupt ending and rushed sequence of final events, “6 Years” is only meant to feel like you've dropped by, saw some drama and got called back to home base before you could find out what happens next. The good news is you might not care enough to feel bad, you’re leaving so soon. Rating: 5.4/10

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