FOUR GOOD DAYS (2021)
Glenn Close, Mila Kunis, Stephen Root, Chad Lindberg, Joshua Leonard, Rebecca Field
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia
It’s hard for an actor to take the spotlight from Glenn Close but Mila Kunis does that in Rodrigo Garcia’s opioid addiction drama “Four Good Days” as Kunis plays a recovering addict who reaches out to her hesitant mother (Close) for help. The mother-daughter dynamic is troublesome as both women confront sins of the past which adds to the already precarious storyline written by Garcia and adapted from Eli Saslow’s article in The Washington Post. The performances as expected are superior yet the plot at times requires faith on the viewer’s end to remain credible.
Kunis, predominantly known for her comedic roles, undergoes a transformation for the worse. In one scene, Close rolls down the car window as a repugnant smell emanates from Kunis, the viewer can be thankful there is no John Waters Odorama scratch n sniff card. We can’t get a whiff of the car’s interior, but judging by Kunis's disheveled appearance — greasy hair, blemished face, and lack of teeth — and the look on the face of Close, one can almost imagine the air inside the vehicle. That moment lasts just seconds but speaks volumes as the two actors make the most out of each scene. There are no wasted moments in Garcia’s film.
The storyline of adult children returning home after facing adversity is nothing new. The drug-addicted son or daughter coupled with the parent who feels helpless has played out on the screen before. Still, Close and Kunis are compelling to watch and the fine supporting cast features Stephen Root as the husband Close draws strength from and Joshua Leonard as the father of Kunis’s children who is the exact opposite of Root when it comes to being a source of strength.
The story begins as Molly (Kunis) once again returns to the fold banging on the door of her former home. Her mother Deb (Close) cracks the door but refuses to let Molly in, who, judging by her erratic behavior and speech, is obviously strung out. Deb struggles to turn her away, asking her to come back when she’s clean. But Molly pleads and begs while covering her mouth so her mother won’t see that most of her teeth have rotted away as a result of 10 years worth of drug abuse that includes heroin, meth, crack, and painkillers. It’s a miracle she’s still alive.
Over the last decade Deb has tried to help but each time Molly would steal from her, hawking all the jewelry, guitars, anything of value just so she could buy more drugs and get high. She’s been in and out of rehab 15 times, but Deb offers to help once again and now there is a new combatant for recovering addicts, a shot called Naltrexone which is known as the “opioid antagonist” that blocks the effects of opioids making you immune to getting high for 30 days. The only catch, you must be clean for at least a week. Molly is going on three days clean, an arduous undertaking, so she’s looks at the doctor and exclaims, “Four more days! Seriously?”
Based on a true story by Eli Saslow featured in The Washington Post, the film’s title conveys Molly’s goal. Four days could turn into a living hell, so Deb has taken every precaution to help her daughter avoid temptation. Molly remains homebound, the valuables have been hidden away and Deb has given her a prepaid phone with only a few numbers in the contacts. As you can imagine, someone who’s been at the game for a decade will always find a way to cheat the system.
Molly’s strength is the only tool in her arsenal she can draw upon, but she needs distractions from triggers like boredom. It’s a good day when her ex, Sean (Joshua Leonard) brings Molly’s young son and daughter for a visit. They haven’t seen their mom in quite some time so it’s a bit awkward. Garcia doesn’t let our protagonist off that easy, as temptation finds a way putting Molly in jeopardy of using again.
The push-pull dynamic between Close and Kunis is the film’s biggest asset as the storyline wanders into what feels like implausible territory as when Deb drives Molly over to a crack house so she can check on a 15-year-old user. We all know Molly’s real intention, but Deb wants to trust her daughter, so she agrees. However, in another scene Deb cuts short a lunch date with her oldest daughter when she panics realizing that she left her wallet at home. She can’t trust Molly at home with her wallet, but she’s okay with letting her get near drug dealers and users. Life is stranger than fiction, so if this happened in real life, I don’t feel Molly conveyed the urgency required to get Deb to agree to such a dangerous venture, especially with so much at risk.
I liked the fact that Deb isn’t an entirely wholesome character. We find out that she was in an abusive relationship with Molly’s father Dale (Sam Hennings) so she just took off and left one day, abandoning Molly and her sister. Deb’s motivation for helping Molly is partly driven by redemption. She loves her daughter immensely, yet the viewer is left with the feeling that if Deb could go back in time, she would do it all over again. Both mother and daughter are flawed characters held hostage by their vices
“Four Good Days” features two remarkable performances, with Kunis as we’ve never seen before. She’s so good that Close is overshadowed several times. The opioid crisis continues to affect so many especially after the worst year ever for deaths in the U.S. There is a powerful scene in the film where Molly is asked to talk to a classroom of high school students about her experience. A teenage girl remarks how she would never put herself in that kind of situation. It’s an eye-opening remark that signifies the battle is just beginning. Education is key in the fight.
Now showing in select theaters