As the title tells us, Mel (Taissa Farmiga) and Dan (Ben Rosenfield) have been together for six years. They’re college students living apart in Austin, Texas, but are otherwise inseparable, bubbling with a dreamy, woozy, honeymoon-phase kind of affection. Mel is a mostly motivated student aspiring to become a teacher and Dan has an internship at a hip record label, where his touchy-feely coworker Amanda (Lindsay Burdge, who was excellent in writer/director Fidell’s debut “A Teacher”) offers temptation of all sorts.
This deeply felt film understands the pressures and intensities of love at its highest highs and most sour, especially when life is calling and job opportunities beckon. The honey-faced Farmiga, who possesses a soulfulness not unlike her sister Vera’s, and pale-skinned, sexy Rosenfield have a lived-in chemistry that invites our empathy: we believe that this couple is fully real.
And we also believe that there is trouble in paradise. When the film opens, Mel returns to Dan’s from a party, where she’d gotten piss drunk and drove, which ticks off Dan. Her defensiveness leads to a boozed tussle that lands Dan in the hospital with a bleeding head after Mel pushes him into a dresser. He lies to the nurse to cover this up. This is the way we first meet this couple, already tearing at the seams.
Dan’s fizzy attraction to Amanda makes him nervous: “Why am I thinking about this other woman?” Their dynamic, which is rooted in sweaty-palmed long-term relationship truths, sets the fissures in motion as the film begins to skew too closely toward melodrama. Fidell has a great script in her hands and unfortunately lets predictable narrative beats — Mel happens to pick up Dan’s phone at the wrong time, Mel shows up at Dan’s home at the wrong time — guide the story, and it doesn’t need them. Filmmaker turned cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo’s (2014 Sundance winner “Rich Hill” and 2015 SXSW entry “One and Two”) milky, gently flowing images keep things moving at a fluid pace, however.
It’s no small wonder that Netflix picked up global rights to this film from producer Mark Duplass, who along with his brother Jay Duplass inked a four-picture deal with the streaming company. “6 Years” has universal appeal in spades, two lovely lead performances and a whole lot of truth.