Glenn Close and Mila Kunis star as a mother and daughter, respectively, where the mother attempts to get her daughter over a crucial recovery hurdle in this sensitive addiction drama that walks a very fine line and prolonged line of will she or won’t she relapse?
Addiction dramas are really having a moment in Hollywood independent films. Within the last two years alone, you had Beautiful Boy and Ben Is Back, centering around two distinctly different male opioid addicts and the destruction they bring into their family lives in the suburbs. What is so fascinating about these dramas is not that the writers are able to convey the emotional and broken culture of a typical American family through their own imagination, it’s that these stories are rooted in truth and fact and are based on actual addicts who have decided to share their stories to the world. Enter a new Sundance drama, Four Good Days by director and co-writer Rodrigo Garcia, a sensitively written and staged story that is performed with such honesty and truth by its two leads – Glenn Close and Mila Kunis.
The directors history with female-centric dramas makes him a smooth fit to bring the story of Molly (Kunis) and her mother, Deb, (Close) to life. Close plays a mother whose trust has been broken countless times throughout the years by the lying, stealing, heartbreak and selfishness of her junkie daughter, played by a very real Kunis. The story, as most cliche addiction stories go, is about the daughter being given one more chance to get sober; the title of the film refers to the short period of time that Molly needs to stay clean in order to qualify for a specific drug treatment that would save her life. At its essence, the film is persuasively and well-acted, compassionately observant and unfortunately, unsurprising, albeit the material being well-intentioned and well-written that just never quite goes beyond the inspired-by-a-true-story narrative.
Four Good Days is a more compelling and earnest story than other films about addictions because Close and Kunis perform and work off each other with a dark fury. Close is, by now, a master at playing honorable women graced with hellbent operatic bullshit detectors. Deb longs for Molly to get better and once again become the daughter that she always knew but she’s been played too many times by the deceit and desperate daughter. Close acts with a foul-mouthed bravura that shows us the moral urgency of a parent who will do anything to oppress her child to save them. Kunis herself does remarkable work and is as every bit impressive. She buries Molly’s personality under the itchy tics and ideas of someone so far strayed from the path of a normal life that she forgets how to live one.
The characters are well-written by Garcia and his co-writer Eli Saslow and they gave them a personal dimension unseen in other addict-trope characters. The movie fills us in with other details that some might find superfluous (Deb split from a bad marriage and semi-abandoned her children) yet it is important to fill in the gaps for these flawed characters who are each battling their own demons both literally and figuratively. Some other details included also hinge on what it feels like TV-movie stuff (Molly’s dad is selfish and level-headed; Deb has another daughter who is functional but quite obnoxious; Molly abandoned her own children) that create for a more soapy take on the narrative always balancing the fine line of will she or won’t she relapse?
The technical craft of the film does not do much to elevate the film, not that it needs to. It’s a 21st century, suburb-based story. No need for elaborate costumes or a crazy score to go with this up-and-down roller coaster. The only issue at play is the editing. There are moments when you wish the film would end, not because it is bad in anyway, but because it would be more powerful and let the themes and emotional heft of the film linger with you longer. But instead, you are given more… and more… and more… and different twists (especially one big one that you don’t see coming) make the end of the film not come as a surprise or a shock but instead a watered out ending that falls emotionally flat. Maybe Garcia and Saslow meant for that and with Garcia’s sensitive and keen eye on the power of feminine energy and maternal instinct, the movie might be meant to answer a specific question in its climax. But if that was the case, then they should have asked the question up front instead of let the climax fall flat.
“Four Good Days” premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres Category. At press time, the film is awaiting distribution.
Director: Rodrigo Garcia.
Screenwriter: Rodrigo Garcia, Eli Saslow.
Music by: Edward Shearmur.
Cinematography: Igor Jadue-Lillo.
Production: Indigenous Media, Oakhurst Entertainment.
With: Glenn Close, Mila Kunis, Stephen Root, Joshua Leonard.