Genre: Comedy, Drama, Musical
Directed by: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan, Tamara Mintz
As love stories go, The Last Five Years is fairly predictable in that giddy first love of boy meets girl turning into a study on why relationships are hard kind of a way. As a musical however The Last Five Years is truly astounding.
Cathy and Jamie, played superbly by Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan respectively, each tell the story of their five-year relationship from their alternative perspectives – Cathy begins at the end of their relationship and works backwards towards their first meeting, while Jamie’s story starts after their first date and follows the chronological timeline of their relationship’s highs and lows.
It’s a musical that has developed a kind of cult following among theatre fans in the years following its Off-Broadway debut in 2001, and no doubt the movie adaptation will fail to please everyone. The opposing storylines can be jarring if you’re not expecting it, and the scene shifts are noticeably clunky, especially when jumping between the full five years as we do at the beginning of the film – but the soundtrack remains largely untouched, and the film is all the better for it.
I’ll admit that after a delayed release (and then only showing the film in a single London cinema) there was more than enough time between the release of the soundtrack album and the DVD for me to download and play the songs on a loop often enough to fall in love with them. Luckily for me, however, and fittingly for a musical, it is ultimately the soundtrack that is the film’s strongest feature.
Much has been made about Anna Kendrick’s wonderful performances, and all of it is extremely well-deserved, but it was Jeremy Jordan who really blew me away, particularly as he comes to the end of his story. In fact, the final half of the film is undoubtedly the most compelling as Cathy begins to sing songs about celebrating a new, perfect love while Jamie races towards the inevitable break up through a string of infidelities and chill-inducing musical numbers.
The visuals may provide a little bit more context and the actors’ performances are definitely worth seeing at least once, but considering this is a sung-through musical where the characters basically sing a series of monologues and only directly interact in one moment halfway through, the music more than stands by itself.
As a film about flawed characters struggling to maintain their relationship, this probably wouldn’t work. Even as far as musicals go, The Last Five Years is unconventional and requires a considerable level of viewer commitment to invest in the 90 minute depiction of a relationship we know is going to fail. What we’re left with is a film that is a bit of a slow burn with a fantastic emotional pay off – if you take the time to see it all the way through.
The plot itself may not be overly exciting, but the story is in the telling and the way in which The Last Five Years is told definitely holds up as a story worth sharing.