Films about addiction call to Hollywood. They give performers the opportunity to linger down in the gutter for a bit. Or they give full permission to develop a performance based on tics and nervous scratching. In short, it’s a method actors dream. The problem is there’s so many films of this ilk that unless they go full phantasmagoric like Requiem For a Dream (2000) or were there in the very beginning (thinking of The Long Weekend from 1945), there’s only so far their tortured or redemptive worldviews will carry.
The latest film to try their hand at such a story is Rodrigo Garcia’s Four Good Days. The good news is that its competent. The bad news is that it’s middling and doesn’t really stand out beyond the good performances.
Starring Mila Kunis as Molly, a beleaguered and strung-out addict who shows up on her mother’s doorstep in the film’s opening scene, her first appearance is jarring with teeth barely hanging inside her gums and deep bruises that belie her weary existence of living on the street. We’re just as appalled as her mother Deb, played by Glenn Close, who immediately turns her away in a harsh act of tough love. She’s been through these pleas for help before (14 times we later learn) and each time results in either a betrayal or theft of money and property.
Yet, something this time makes her believe Molly’s wish to come clean, so she drives her to the closest rehab facility and drops her off. Further ideas of true wellness are presented when a doctor informs the two about a new shot that blocks opioids from entering the system and has been instrumental in not allowing addicts to relapse. The only catch- Molly needs to stay clean for at least 4 days or else the shot could cause permanent damage.
With that finish line in sight, Molly and Deb hole up in their house together and try to find new ways to connect and hopefully veer the past into a brighter future.
What makes Four Good Days most interesting is the small moments between mother and daughter, tightened by the ever increasing questions of self destructive relapse. In one scene, Deb realizes she’s left her wallet at home with Molly. What should be a minor inconvenience for most becomes a life or death construct for this mother and daughter. Also intriguing is the precarious mental state Kunis applies to her character. The metallic beeping of an alarm panel becomes a sort of Edgar Allan Poe-like beating heart stinger right through her brain. As Deb explains to her, it’s necessary to know when any door in the house is opened, and the realization of her deep mistrust slowly washes over Molly.
The film becomes less intriguing when it aims for larger moments, such as when Molly talks Deb into driving her back into her old drug-addicted stomping grounds to help a supposed friend. Yes, it gives both actresses a big moment in a swirling atmosphere of lethargic dread, but it also seems to detract from the subtle give and take that’s been formed up until then.
Written by Eli Slalow and directed by Garcia (whose work often veers into the melodramatic with films such as Nine Lives and Mother and Child), Four Good Days premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, and it’s the type of scrappy, dramatic film that often nestles in comfortably there. It’s never too preachy, but it also never rises above its material to unforgettable.
Four Good Days opens in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday April 30th at the following theaters: Angelika Dallas and Plano, Cinemark McKinney, Legacy and Roanoke and AMC Grapevine Mills and TInseltown 17.