2015, NR, 80 min. Directed by Hannah Fidell. Starring Taissa Farmiga, Ben Rosenfield, Joshua Leonard, Lindsay Burdge, Peter Vack, Jennifer Lafleur, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 21, 2015
Hannah Fidell’s second feature to be filmed in Austin (after 2013’s A Teacher) is another romantic drama. Whereas the earlier film highlighted a relationship between a teacher and one of her high school students, the lovers in 6 Years are age-appropriate college students. And if the content of A Teacher raised the hackles of some, the reverse is true for 6 Years. It is a predictably banal and occasionally melodramatic story about young adults who’ve been a romantic couple for six years – ever since they were teenage neighbors – but as their 20s start unfolding, their relationship frays under the weight of grownup concerns.
Although the story’s outcome is telegraphed from the get-go, there are still many things of interest in 6 Years. Primary here are the naturalistic performances of the two leads, Farmiga and Rosenfield. Enhancing the actors’ tone is the camerawork by Andrew Droz Palermo, which roams freely while still keeping the characters in tight focus. Mel (Farmiga), a junior in college, is a student teacher. Ben (Rosenfield) is an intern at an Austin record label and is about to graduate. But the only thing we see these characters ever really working at is partying and getting drunk, and they are not well enough developed to win our rooting empathy. Fidell wisely presents the story in snippets, which is good because it’s during the extended dialogue scenes that the film’s inadequacies reveal themselves most.
If nothing else, 6 Years is a testament to the cohesion of the Austin filmmaking community. You can barely round a corner without seeing a familiar face or production credit. Produced by Austin’s Arts + Labor and the Duplass Brothers (former Austinites who made good in Hollywood), the film draws on the local industry for roles as extras and crew members. Next time out, Fidell needs to find some kind of midrange between A Teacher’s outré leanings and 6 Years’ conventionality. I’m confident she can re-calibrate.