The Last 5 Years Movie

Fall In Love With “The Last Five Years”

A movie adaptation of Jason Robert Brown’s award-winning musical, The Last Five Years, was released in limited theaters on Feb. 13, just in time for Valentine’s Day. 

The movie is a love story, though it is by no means a standard, happy tale—instead, it is about a couple falling apart. The story is told through both sides of the relationship of protagonists Cathy (Anna Kendrick) and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan). These two are the only principal cast members in the entire film. They are also the only ones who sing; many of the songs are solos with the occasional duet. 

The two characters are also travelling along separate timelines—the movie opens with Cathy in a New York apartment, alone, after having been just left by Jamie, beginning her timeline with the end of their relationship. The next scene shows Jamie’s timeline, where he is just beginning to fall in love with Cathy; his story moves from beginning to end, while hers goes from end to beginning. The two timelines only overlap for one brief moment, when the couple marries. 

The movie is told almost entirely in songs—only a few lines are spoken and there is continuous music playing in the background. Much of the singing was performed live, with only three songs recorded. The singing is certainly one of the strong points of the movie—both actors have performed in Broadway shows, and Kendrick starred in another musical adaptation, Into the Woods, earlier this year. Much of the directing choices are simple, giving the actors room to exercise their voices and really shine. 

The acting is extremely good as well, especially in the scenes where the characters are together, whether happy or sad. One of the highest points of the film, acting-wise, is the final scene, when Jamie is at the end of their love story and Cathy is starting right at the beginning. Both actors give a wonderfully emotional performance, saying goodbye to each other for the first and the last time. 

Another plus of the movie is its utilization of the settings. It was shot in 21 days and was filmed entirely in New York City, mainly in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Jason Robert Brown, the writer of the original musical, has referred to the city itself as ‘a third character.’ The only other settings seen are Cathy’s small New Jersey hometown and the theatre company in Ohio that she visits every summer; aside from those few shorts scenes, the movie takes place entirely in New York. 

The movie is also extremely close to the stage production of the show. One of the only noticeable differences is the timing—the movie is set in modern day, while the stage production was set in the early 2000s. The only other obvious difference is the changed style of the songs; in the original production, only the song where the two meet at the wedding is a duet, while the movie has combined several songs to juxtapose the characters. 

Many stars who have experience with The Last Five Years make appearances in the show. The original off-Broadway Cathy, Sherie Rene Scott (famous for other musicals such as Aida and The Little Mermaid) appears in a cameo role, as does Betsy Wolfe, the actress who played Cathy in the off-Broadway revival in 2013. Brown himself also had a small cameo role. 

The movie is not the typical love story that is usually released on Valentine’s Day—it does not end happily, and, according to Brown, the trouble with the couple is not “that they broke up… the tragedy is that they were ever together in the first place.” Jamie is an ambitious writer who seems to succeed in everything he does; Cathy is an actress who just can’t seem to catch a break. Jamie is also selfish, while Cathy is fiercely loyal—these traits and the differences in their level of success ultimately account for the couple’s failure to stay together.

Despite the melancholy nature of the movie, it manages to be funny and lighthearted while still being filled with emotion. While it is only available in select theaters, it is available for purchase online, on iTunes, and on demand.