Film Review: The Last Five Years


Based on the musical, Richard LaGravense’s The Last Five Years is an experiment that pays off for the most part. The film is well executed.

Cathy, a struggling actress, looks back at her five year relationship with writer Jamie. Meanwhile, Jamie’s perspective sees the relationship from the beginning to the end…

Richard LaGravenese’s cinematic adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Last Five Years offers something different in its format. LaGravenese employs an undercutting device to tell the story. Rather than a traditional film musical where songs mingle with spoken dialogue, the story of The Last Five Years is told exclusively in song.

As a cinematic experiment, The Last Five Years is broadly successful. Songs in the film are decent for the most part, although they are not particularly memorable. The film mixes upbeat numbers with more reflective ballads. Pacing also works well; the film manages to tell its story in detail without dragging. Performances from the two protagonists are strong. Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan exhibit good chemistry as well as decent voices.

LaGravenese’s direction is good throughout the film. The cinematography also works well, although the reliance on movement is dizzying at times. The Last Five Years does however have a fluidity that works to its advantage.

Storytelling in the film is interesting. The narrative jumps from Anna’s to Jamie’s perspective frequently. Whilst Cathy begins her telling of the story from the present working back in time, Jamie commences at the beginning. This provides an interesting frisson. Not only is the story told from both perspective, but the jumping around in the time frame allows viewers to really see the changes in the characters and their relationship.

The depth of feeling between the two protagonists is effectively conveyed in The Last Five Years. Emotion increases as the film continues. Some viewers will find the film identifiable, although it is not quite the tearjerker some audiences would expect. Humour in the film is slight, but effective where it is employed.

With its reliance on singing over dialogue, The Last Five Years is a bit of an acquired taste. Nevertheless, musical fans are likely to be pleased by Richard LaGravense’s offering.

The Last Five Years will be screened at Empire Leicester Square in London from Friday 17th April 2015. It will be released on VOD on 1st May 2015, and on DVD on 4th May 2015.