Thursday, October 1, 2015

6 Years

You ever have something really bad happen to you but it takes you a long time to realize how bad it actually was?

I have friends (more than I care to admit, though I suppose any number greater than zero is one too many) who have been sexually assaulted. Some of them continued to hang out with their assailants in the hours, days or even weeks after their attack. Had coffee, grabbed dinner, went to a movie. This is for two reasons. One, they knew their assailants personally and, up until the assault, always assumed they could trust them. Two, my friends didn’t have the emotional context to understand how horrific their attack was. It took weeks to fully settle in.

People do this. They compartmentalize their pain, store it away. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, maybe I’m remembering it wrong, and, of course, the dreaded, Maybe it was my fault. This idea of repression, of stowing away one’s pain, certainly isn’t limited to sexual or physical abuse. The regression of emotional pain is just as common.
There are no sexual assaults in 6 Years (there is a drunken make-out session that could go too far, but doesn’t). Nor is the notion of parental neglect touched on. But this is a film about romantic pain. It’s a film about emotional turmoil, physical abuse, and punch-drunk love. Less than seven minutes into the movie, Mel (Taissa Farmiga) comes home happily drunk and wakes up her boyfriend of six years, Dan (Ben Rosenfield). They talk, they kiss, she says she drove home from the party, and an argument ensues. That argument ends when Mel pushes Dan and he cracks the back of his head open on his dresser. There’s blood everywhere, they go to the emergency room, it’s a mess. And then it’s never mentioned again. Save a brief chat Dan has with his female coworker the next day (“What if you did that to her?” the coworker posits), this assault is never discussed.

What if Dan had done it to Mel? What if he had a few too many drinks, accidentally pushed her and she cracked her head open? That’s an entirely different movie. A bit later in the film, Mel and Dan get into a drunken argument on the front lawn of a house. Mel begins hitting Dan, and he gets her on the ground to subdue her. The cops come, arrest Dan, and that’s that. What if Mel had been the one subduing Dan? Would it have been as big of a deal? What If, What If, What If.

6 Years isn’t a film primarily about violence (though that is a big part of it), but these role reversal questions of What If are automatically linked to the movie. Violence isn’t okay. I don’t care how many ways you spin What If, it is not okay that Mel pushed Dan and Dan pushed Mel. 6 Years knows this, but instead of having the characters harp on the violence, it asks the audience to judge it.
One of the best aspects of 6 Years is that it allows both male and female viewers to judge Mel and Dan equally. Mel has a nasty temper. So bad that when Dan assumes it’s coming, he literally steps in front of her so that she doesn’t hurt or damage anyone or anything around her. Mel’s temper is destructive, there’s no arguing that, but is her temper solely dependent on Dan’s transgressions? If Dan weren’t around, would Mel ever lose her cool? Similarly, if Mel weren’t around, would Dan keep getting physically hurt all the time?

What If, What If, What If.

6 Years is a decent film, not a great one. Writer/director Hannah Fidell, and her excellent director of photography, Andrew Droz Palermo (himself a fine director, see the astounding Rich Hill), put plenty of worthwhile effort into the look of the movie. Farmiga and Rosenfield are both great, as is Lindsay Burdge (so good in Fidell’s previous and great film, A Teacher), who plays Dan’s mature coworker, but the movie doesn’t fully live up to the questions it wants you to ask. However, the fact that it does encourage you to ask those questions is a very good thing. If I saw this film with a woman I was dating, I know we’d have a lot to talk about when the movie was over. That’s worth something.

There may be other, better, similarly-themed films like 6 Years, but seeing as how it is currently readily available on Netflix Instant, I’d recommend watching it for the post-screening conversation alone. Watch it with someone you love. Watch it with someone you used to love. Or hell, better still, watch it with someone you want to love. See where the conversation takes you. B

31 comments:

  1. OK, I will now add this to my watchlist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Damn man, you commented on that quick! I think you'd value in this flick though.

      Delete
  2. Whoa. Totally I'm for this one.

    AW, I don't stop by nearly enough, but f--k me, I'm always knocked on my ass when I do.

    Great stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, thanks man! Would love to know what you think of this one.

      Delete
  3. Sometimes, some very good questions and conversations come out of a not so very good movie, and i'm okay with that/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh for sure. If a movie has ideas or questions that provoke discussion, that's definitely worth something.

      Delete
  4. What if is certainly an interesting question when it pertains to gender reversal and abuse. I'll have to give this a watch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would definitely be interested in your thoughts on this one.

      Delete
  5. This is a very good review sir, I almost hesitate to say it's a better and more interesting review than the film deserves. I was not a fan of this movie at all. I thought both lead performers were fine but I just found the characters hard to really buy into (not in the sense that there aren't people in the world like this or in these sort of situations but more that the writing felt so contrived to me). But as I said, your review is really well written and honestly, it kind of makes me want to go back and give this a rewatch. The questions you bring up here that you say the film suggest didn't strike me when I first saw it and I'm very curious to see if I can see what you found in it on a second watch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks buddy! You know, it's funny... some films compel me to write about them. There are plenty of other movies from 2015 that I have liked more than 6 Years, but while I was watching it, I thought I might have something interesting to say about it. Funny how that works.

      You should consider checking out A Teacher though. It was the film Fidell made before 6 Years and Lindsay Burdge is soooo good in it.

      Delete
  6. Great review, I'll make sure to add this to my watchlist. The fact that a movie is bringing these questions up is admirable in itself, regardless of the quality. And I love that Taissa Farmiga is getting great roles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, exactly. Sometimes quality can take a welcome backseat to issue. And Farmiga is fearless here, no question.

      Delete
  7. Well...I was ready to write this off as a fluffy ripoff of Like Crazy...but this sounds like it's own entity and something I really need to see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, I was too! But they're really quite different films. 6 Years gets raw, man.

      Delete
  8. I saw this when browsing Netflix and didn't pay it any mind, I will now after reading these. The role reversals are intriguing. I had a male friend that was attacked by his ex, he never hit her, but only pushed her away from him, and despite being scratched up like hell, the police questioned *him* and presumed he was the abuser, even though he did not instigate anything. That's always bothered me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would love to know what you think of this one, given that personal connection. I was compelled to write about this movie because, without going into too much detail, I was once in a relationship that very closely mirrored the one in this film. Fuuuun times.

      Delete
  9. One of the things that I feel makes Once Were Warriors a fantastic movie is the way it makes us look at violence based on the context in which it occurs. We first see a guy who comes across as a real badass when he takes down a violent jerk at a bar. Its almost an "all right!" situation. Then we see the same man strike his wife and it's chilling. But then a situation I won't spoil occurs, but it's so heinous that if this man were to find out he'd react violently and I found myself sitting there wanting to see him find out so the act could be "punished". I wanted to see him hurt this person. It really made me evaluate my own motivations and beliefs when it came to violence.

    Anyway, more to the point of the film you reviewed, how often, especially in slapstick comedies, is this situation played for laughs: man makes pass at women and woman slugs him - maybe she even kicks him in the balls - just for saying something she didn't like...cue laugh track.

    Female on male violence is just as wrong as male on female violence. Years ago I lived next door to a couple I didn't know and I heard him hit her once during an argument. I didn't know what to do. When I saw her in the hallway outside our apartments the next day I asked if she was okay and she very obviously did not want to talk about it. A couple weeks later I heard their voices raised again. This time though she just kept yelling at him in a pleading voice "Do you love me?" which was then followed by a hard slap. The question and slap kept repeating and I realized it was her hitting him. He finally got pissed enough that he yelled at her to shut up and stop. This then repeated - "do you love me?", her slapping him and him yelling shut up. I kept expecting him to haul off and hit her because this went on for over five minutes on a constant loop. He never did. (And for the few folks out there who might be thinking this, no, they were not having rough sex.) Once again I didn't know what to do. They moved out not long after this.

    I used to mull on which was "worse" - him hitting her once, or her hitting him several dozen times. And if he had hit her back after those several dozens times of being hit himself was she then a "victim"? There are no cut and dried answers other than neither of them should have gotten physically violent with the other.

    (Sorry for running on, but this pushes a button with me.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a sad story. I know people who have been through that too. The overall point here is that violence by anyone against anyone is not okay. But female and male violence certainly does happen. The occurrences aren't as prevalent, but it does happen. And I've never seen a film explore it quite like 6 Years.

      And holy hell, I really need to see Once Were Warriors now. Sounds like an intense ride.

      Delete
    2. It's a powerful drama that might be tough for some people to watch. I spoke about it more, and the very high regard I hold it in, here:

      http://tipsfromchip.blogspot.com/2012/12/movie-once-were-warriors-1994.html

      Delete
    3. I'm going to check it out soon then give your review a proper read. Thanks for sending it over.

      Delete
  10. I had never even heard about this movie until now. I will definitely check it out when i get the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds good. Be curious to hear your thoughts.

      Delete
  11. This is a movie i must watch, gender issues is becoming more extreme everyday here in Sweden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh really? I didn't know that. Would love to get your opinion on the film.

      Delete
  12. I'm sold! I didn't finish reading this post, because I want to see the movie (which I'd never heard of) before I do, but what I read was amazing. You are such a gifted writer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww thanks! That means so much to me! I would love to hear your input on this one.

      Delete
  13. Excellent review! I noticed this on Netflix, but I passed on it. Adding it to my queue now.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Great review, man! I enjoyed 6 Years--particularly Rosenfield, but I really did enjoy watching it with my wife. We have a fantastically boring relationship, lacking in drama and the "what if" that permeated 6 years, and the film really made me appreciate that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great man, love hearing that. Very nice that your marriage doesn't mirror the relationship in this film haha.

      Delete