Review by Jacquelin Hipes
When Dan (Avan Jogia) and Franny (Eve Hewson) get married, they aren’t exactly ready for adulthood. As their parents point out, neither one has a job or even a concrete plan for what’s meant to come next. Despite their lack of preparation, Dan quickly lands a months-long gig looking after the dogs of actress Hailey Turner (Daniela Barbosa) and soon after Franny gets a job writing intros and one-liners for a television game show. The pair settle into Turner’s spacious house in the Hills, bolstered by dual incomes, yet they soon find out that financial stability only comprises a small part of successful marriages.
Franny’s new job disrupts their old routine of spending all day and all night together. At first she chafes over the office environment and personality quirks of her co-workers, particularly the deadpan humor and unpredictable mood changes of lead writer, Noah (Hamish Linklater). On a whim, though, Franny decides to attend an after-work happy hour to find that everyone except her boss has bailed. Over the course of drinks, more drinks, and a late dinner, the evening progresses from awkward to convivial, Franny and Noah uncovering a chemistry that might stray beyond professional boundaries.
Meanwhile, Dan mopes in his host’s mansion, feeling left out by Franny’s stories and her burgeoning life away from him. One night he accidentally comes across Turner’s diary, a collection of poems and random thoughts that brings him closer—at least emotionally—to the starlet. Jogia and Hewson have a charming chemistry together, which makes it all the more believable and sad as their characters’ relationship sours with time. It’s easy to place the majority of blame on Dan, particularly after an alcohol-fueled dinner party gone wrong, although this likely stems from writer/director Rebecca Addelman’s increasing focus on Franny’s side of the marriage. Dan’s choices are often framed as a reaction to his wife, while the process behind her decisions—poor or otherwise—plays out organically and with more indulgence for her vacillations.
Dan and Franny have undergone a common experiment, choosing to grow up within a marriage rather than before one. Yet as Franny points out, gushing over her relationship, marriage makes everything feel more important, carry more weight. While this lends gravity to simple moments like decorating your first Christmas tree or eating Chinese take-out while watching YouTube, it cuts the other way. A small crush can feel like infidelity, and a moody response after a long day can feel like condemnation. Paper Year shows that marriage can provide a sturdy, reassuring support system for navigating a life that grows more complicated the older we get. But it can also cause a great deal of hurt if you’re seeking that support from someone unwilling to—or merely incapable of—giving it.
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