Ben Rosenfield and Taissa Farmiga star as Dan and Melanie in 6 Years.
Romance is a genre for the young, while stories about relationships in crisis are typically fare for people who have at the very least a well-established adulthood. It is hard for people to have the seven-year itch when that timespan comprises a third of one’s life, but 6 Years is the rare story that shows a mature relationship between a couple whose members have not quite reached maturity. Stories of young love often fail to realize that its very intensity can make it perishable, particularly when neither party is a fully-formed person.
Taissa Farmiga, the younger sister of “Bates Motel” star Vera and herself a sometime performer on “American Horror Story,” stars as Melanie, a college student studying to be an elementary school teacher, while Ben Rosenfield plays Dan, himself a college student who interns for a record company. As the couple approaches graduation, their paths begin to diverge and the relationship that they began when both were high-school students starts to crumble.
On paper, Melanie could be an intensely unsympathetic character. Even though she has her positive traits, she can be selfish, prone to outbursts and is often accidentally violent. It would be a huge exaggeration to call her abusive, but any character who sends her love interest to the hospital twice in the space of a single movie is somewhat suspect. Farmiga, however, makes her sympathetic. Another actress could have played her as a nightmare – in the hands of her “American Horror Story” co-star Emma Roberts in the role, 6 Years would feel like a stalker thriller – but Farmiga’s emotional availability is a key to making her bearable.
Rosenfield plays the more stable character, but 6 Years never makes the mistake of painting him as blameless. Much of the film centers on the conflict over Dan’s decision to either remain in Texas with Melanie or move to Brooklyn as an employee of the record label where he interns, but there is no suspense here. Dan may love Melanie, but everything about his personality shouts Brooklyn. He only lacks an e-cigarette, ironic facial hair and a diatribe about how he used to like an indie band before everyone else discovered it.
Hannah Fidell directs 6 Years with a sensitivity to its characters’ emotions and a talent for eliciting charming performances from them. Farmiga and Rosenfield make young love into something as sad as it can be exciting. Young couples often don’t need the seven-year itch, because sometimes six will do.
Now on iTunes and digital platforms; Coming to Netflix Sept. 8
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