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6 Years
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by Jaycie

"An unintentionally effective argument for raising the voting age to 26."
4 stars

Upon learning of the existence of this movie, I instantly thought back to 2011's Like Crazy, another mumblecore rom-dram with an indie soundtrack and an unsympathetic pair of leads. But there's a major difference: Whereas the arc of Like Crazy hinges on thoroughly idiotic behavior by anyone's standards, every action in 6 Years makes perfect sense in context. It's not a very high bar, but damn if they don't clear it.

If you have ever been in college, you can relate to this story, whether you've experienced anything like it yourself or taken your roommate out for shots after she has. I can count at least five cautionary tales told here that should be repeated during all frosh weeks everywhere. Of course, if you're in that sweet spot where you're too old for college drama but too young to have kids who are approaching it, you can skip this one without a shiver. Even so, the authenticity on the screen is impressive, which is a surprisingly rare quality in a movie made by people trying so self-consciously hard to be authentic.

Dan (Ben Rosenfeld) and Mel (Taissa Farmiga, sister of Vera) have been together for, yup, six years, and are now college seniors, he pursuing employment with a local record label and she eyeing a career as a teacher. While it's clear that those six years have been a picture-perfect montage of red Solo cups and ice cream, cracks are beginning to show, most notably a crack in Dan's head caused by Mel's drunken shoving. That's the first in what becomes a hellstorm of disasters for our young lovers, assisted along by Dan's comely co-worker Amanda (Lindsay Burdge) and untold quantities of alcohol. This movie could have easily been called "I'm Sorry, I Was Just Drunk!" - that is, until they start screwing up sober in even worse ways.

Can you see the trouble? 1. They started dating at approximately 15 and have yet to touch anyone else. 2. He's developed an affinity for insufferable hipsters and their insufferable music while her tastes, be they in professions or activities, are completely normal. 3. They're still drinking like first-semester freshmen. 4. They are not at all at an age where emotional stability is in the job description. 5. The "plans" they keep mentioning are running up against the reality of impending adulthood. With all this in mind, what eventually transpires between Dan and Mel is quite predictable, but you can't help but sigh in relief when it does.

I don't recall a filmmaker ever lurking around the indie radio station where I volunteered as a student, but writer/director Hannah Fidell must have visited for research; her depiction of the flanneled beardos with whom Dan has been hanging out would be cliché if it weren't so bitterly accurate. Perhaps she found time to stop by a student house party afterward, because she got that dead-on as well, down to the Christmas lights on the wall. She even found a skilled trio of actors in Rosenfeld, Farmiga and Burdge, all of whom achieve (through considerable improvisation, no doubt) the naturalistic dialogue that mumblecore directors crave. Farmiga, in particular, shines at her character's lowest moments, which should make her suitable for movies with more gravitas than one detailing the relationship of two cute white people.

The setting of 6 Years is also key. Austin is not "almost a character itself" or some such nonsense, but it does reflect Dan and Mel's relationship quite nicely: It, too, is a combination of acoustic-strumming irony and mainstream "Murika" youthfulness. Fidell makes this clear with Mel's discomfort at an impromptu pool party hosted by Dan's co-workers. (I don't blame her for not getting in. She might catch smug.)

Executive producers and quirk gods Mark and Jay Duplass likely had something to do with making 6 Years work, but the sensibility of Fidell's concept is essential. Why don't we see more celluloid romances deteriorating from the progression of life as it is, as opposed to boneheaded decisions or disapproving families? Now if Fidell can make a movie like this about platonic friends outgrowing each other, we'll have a veritable telepath on our hands.

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originally posted: 10/10/15 13:41:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2015 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

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10/21/15 sdaayv USA 4 stars
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