Mel (Taisaa Farmiga) and Dan (Ben Rosenfield) have been dating one another for six years and are in the ending stages of their college lives. Dan works as an intern at a record label, with the possibility of being offered a job in New York. Mel is working at an elementary school, wanting to teach in Austin after she graduates. The two love each other, but fighting isn’t out of the ordinary when they disagree. When an opportunity presents itself, the couple find themselves reaching a breaking point.
6 Years is a remarkable portrait of young love and its effect on one’s decisions to pursue a future that may mean choosing one’s self over a relationship. If this week at SXSW has taught me anything, it’s that I need to be more vulnerable during films and allow myself the vulnerability to find myself inside someone else’s film. It helps that I’m about the age of the actors in the film, but this film can relate to anyone who’s ever made a decision for themselves, or for love. Being in that predicament is the most unfortunate thing in the world and this film does a breathtakingly beautiful job of expressing all the emotions we feel.
Ben Rosenfield had a bit part in A Most Violent Year and still managed to standout to me. He’s incredibly good at displaying emotion with his movements and facial expressions and he puts that on full display here. His character has two amazing choices at the end of the day and Rosenfield couldn’t be any more perfect in this role. He’s with someone who makes him incredibly happy and we see how he lights up when Farmiga flashes a smile at him. He’s smitten by her and you really feel the love through him kissing and playing around with her. He’s also working at a job that surrounds him with great people and he’s got the opportunity of a life time to pursue what he loves. It’s a no brainer that he needs to move, but the sadness he conveys with longing looks and frustrated outbursts speaks to his immersion in the role. He behaves as anyone else would, weighing the pros and cons in a way that’s relatable for the audience.
Taissa Farmiga, whose track record for emotional characters is already stunning, continues to blow me away with the amount of raw emotion and personality she brings to this role. Anyone on the receiving end of this news can identify with her character. As hard as it is to be the one to make the decision, it’s just as hard to be left wondering what is going to happen to you. Farmiga plays her character with a fun and flirty air to her, but she’s also not afraid to be confrontational and even physical when she’s upset. She doesn’t internalize her emotions well and it puts her in some bad positions. She’s young and her emotions get the best of her sometimes because she isn’t sure what’s going to happen to her relationship. The tears that fall from her eyes come naturally and her scared nature later in the film feel almost too authentic. Her chemistry with Rosenfield would make anyone believe they’d been together for 6 Years and she does a tremendous job all throughout the film.
Writer/Director Hannah Fidell proved that she can convey an unusual romance (but a romance nonetheless) with A Teacher and now she’s tackling a different look at love. As a writer, Fidell’s story flows naturally and never seems like an impossibility. Her characters are well written and she makes sure to highlight their humanity through their flaws. These lovers are not perfect and they make big mistakes sometimes, but that’s realistic and it forces them to talk more about their relationship. She writes characters who fall into temptation, but are also aware of what they’re doing and how they could hurt the person they love. Her characters respond naturally to a confusing situation, which is where her direction really emphasizes the story and the performances. Fidell captures the raw emotions of the actors at their highest and lowest points. Farmiga and Rosenfield are constantly kissing and cuddling, but it never feels necessary after some time because it speaks to the love they have for one another. Focus on key moments in the characters lives allows us to observe how they react to situations both promising and unfortunate. The camera will linger long enough for the audience to get a feel for where the character’s head is at and that helps enormously in this film. Fidell has really created something special here.
On an emotional level, it’s not hard to imagine how this film will play with its audiences. Whether you’re young, or old, we have all made decisions that force us to make a hard decision. With said decision you gain and lose, no matter what. For me, moving half-way across the country meant leaving friends, family, and some of the greatest memories I’ve made. It also meant moving somewhere to start a new life that’s granted me endless possibilities. I’m always going to wish I were back home with the people I love, but I can’t deny how much my life has changed for the better since moving. This film film’s excellence speaks to the fact that nearly anyone can find their own life within it.
6 Years perfectly captures what it is to be young and head over heels for someone, while also having to weigh the decisions of one’s future, as opposed to a future with their significant other. Is it selfish to choose something for yourself? Is it also easy to leave something/someone behind after a number of amazing years? These are the questions you’re forced to ask and even answer when the film comes to a close. The relationship could even be a friendship, or with someone/people you consider family. With stunning performances from Farmiga and Rosenfield, along with impeccable writing and direction from Fidell, it’s no wonder why Netflix picked this film up. This is the type of film that really speaks to you and sticks with you for a long time to come.
6 Years Trailer