SXSW FILM 2015
By Don Simpson | March 20, 2015
Director: Hannah Fidell
Writer: Hannah Fidell
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Ben Rosenfield, Joshua Leonard, Lindsay Burdge, Peter Vack, Jennifer Lafleur, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, Jason Newman, Molly McMichael
Judging from personal experience, two of the most trying moments for young relationships are high school and college graduation. There is an inherent selfishness in choosing one’s next steps after those landmark occasions; because, in our modern society, it seems much too young to make decisions about your future while keeping a significant other in mind. Your whole life is ahead of you and who knows how much longer your high school or college sweetheart will be in the picture. Of course looking at relationships from this perspective, it seems utterly pointless to even start dating until after college. Hannah Fidell’s 6 Years astutely observes the turbulent dissolution one such hopeless relationship.
Mel (Taissa Farmiga) and Dan (Ben Rosenfield) are college seniors who have been dating for six years. They are childhood friends — neighbors, in fact — who went to high school and college together. With college graduation rapidly approaching, they must decide which careers they will pursue and whether those career choice will enable them to continue to live in Austin. Since Mel wants to be an elementary school teacher, it seems that she could work anywhere. Dan, on the other hand, dreams of working at a record label. While he has been interning at an Austin-based label for the last year, he will most likely have to move to New York City to pursue a serious career in the industry. Mel and Dan both seem afraid to discuss their career choices, fearing how the other one might react. As the clock ticks away, it becomes increasingly obvious that things will not end pretty. Fueled by raging hormones and a propensity for partying, Mel and Dan are too distracted to focus on their impending reality. From our vantage point, they appear to be barreling down a path of self-destruction.
Since female-directed films are unfortunately still a rarity, it is interesting to consider how Fidell portrays the gender roles of the two protagonists. For the most part, Dan is the nice guy, while Mel is perceived to be the irrational one, possibly even emotionally unstable. Mel is the abusive and manipulative one; while Dan is the submissive who always comes back for more. When Dan makes mistakes, Fidell always seems to provide excuses for his behavior (primarily: it is Mel’s fault). You can come to your own conclusion(s) regarding how this perceived favoritism should be interpreted; but no matter what, it is impossible to deny that 6 Years turns the abusive relationship narrative on its head.
Shot by the immensely talented Andrew Droz Palermo, 6 Years is a beautifully crafted film that never shies away from the brutal intensity of Mel and Dan’s situation. It will be impossible to deny the impressive talents behind this film, as well as the amazing performances by Taissa Farmiga, Ben Rosenfield and Lindsay Burdge; but by immersing itself into the world of young and beautiful white hipsters, 6 Years will most likely limit its appeal to a niche audience…not that there is anything wrong with that.