Following up her 2013 Sundance and SXSW favourite, A Teacher, Hannah Fidell’s 6 Years is a stunning, bittersweet and heartfelt coming of age drama about two college students struggling to make the next step in their lives and their relationship.
Growing up as neighbours, Dan (Rosenfield) and Mel (Farmiga) have been together forever but cracks are starting to appear in their relationship. Returning late one night to Dan’s apartment, they get in a fight over Mel drink-driving, they push each other and Dan hits and cuts the back of his head. Another night, after they fight in the street, police break them up and Dan spends the night in a cell.
Their relationship always used to so simple, but Dan and Mel are hitting a crossroads in their lives. Mel is about to graduate college, and Dan is offered a full-time job at his record label internship, only it’s across the country, and then kisses colleague Amanda (Burdge) at a party too. Their hearts are messed up and their heads don’t know what to do.
Raw and messy, Fidell’s writing and edge-of-the-scene filmmaking rings true to the all-or-nothing, turbulent nature of young love. The energy and passion is intoxicating, not least a credit to the brilliant performances of Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield. Their chemistry and ease in front of the camera is honest and gives real weight to the turbulent plot. It’s a hugely honest portrayal of that time in people’s lives, so complicated and confused, when finding yourself is just as important as finding each other.
At times director Hannah Fidell could have been a little more subtle with the turning points in Ben and Mel’s relationship but the film is so encapsulating it doesn’t matter. Fidell cleverly uses comedy to find a balance against the rougher plot developments too.
6 Years is not just one of the best films at SXSW, but one of the best and most engaging films of the last few years. Hannah Fidell has quickly become one of the faces to watch in independent film, her naturalistic style of filmmaking and ability to get the best of our her actors and shepherd improvised scenes creates characters and movies you want to root for. And with 6 Years already selling worldwide to Netflix, it seems the industry is getting behind her too.