Based on Journalist Eli Saslow’s 2016 Washington Post article “How’s Amanda? A Story of Truth, Lies and an American Addiction” and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, Four Good Days sees Glenn Close as a mother attempting to shepherd her daughter through crucial days of recovery from substance abuse. Mila Kunis joins Close in a transformative role that hammers home the ugly, destructive nature of addiction.
It’s been over ten years since Molly Wheeler (Kunis) became a heroin addict. Like thousands of ordinary people, Molly was prescribed oxy to ease the pain for an ankle sprain as a teenager, yet unchecked refill amounts allowed an addiction to take hold. Appearing on her mother Deb’s (Close) doorstep, the fleeting opening shot of a healthy Molly laughing on the beach has long gone, and in her place is a ravaged, toothless young woman. Deb and her husband Chris (Stephen Root) are unmoved by Molly’s reappearance and it’s clear that mother and daughter have reached a point of complete estrangement with all previous attempts at rehabilitation painfully unsuccessful. After making it clear that she has no other options by enduring a rough sleep on the concrete floor outside, Deb relents and takes Molly in. A short detox and trip back to the rehab clinic reveal a potential lifeline; If she can stay clean for four more days she’ll be eligible to receive an injection that will block the effects of the drugs and prevent her from getting high. This will give her the best chance of breaking the cycle and rebuilding her life, which includes being a mother to her two children.
Close deftly portrays the ongoing conflict in Deb. Wary of opening herself and her life back up to a daughter who has betrayed her and proven her a fool many times, Deb’s emotional unfurling as caring for Molly brings them closer is measured. Garcia, who co-wrote the screenplay with Saslow, contrasts Deb and Molly’s growing relationship with the decline in the bond with both her husband and eldest daughter, Ashley. While the strain of Molly’s presence results in noticeable disagreements between Deb and Chris, the muted nature in which Ashley accepts her place in the periphery of Deb’s attention is impactful. Kunis gives a solid performance as Molly and it’s intriguing to see Kunis take on this portrayal, a welcome turn as a dramatic lead after fronting comedies like Bad Moms and The Spy Who Dumped Me. Molly is abrasive and guarded, unapologetic in many ways for the burden she presents; but she also harbours wisps of vulnerability that Kunis gingerly filters through in a way that makes it both understandable why her addiction has cost her her family, yet a figure who we want to believe can be redeemed. Rodrigo’s direction is at its best in the quiet, intimate moments between Molly and Deb. Deb gently washing Molly’s hair, reminiscing together in her childhood bedroom, doing puzzles in the garage. Despite the complexities of the past and the uncertainty of the future, both women lay down their armour and revel in giving and receiving affection.
Even with the convincing partnership of Close and Kunis, Four More Days still feels like another addiction drama that will likely be lost in the shuffle. Molly’s impassioned speech to a group of children about the dangers of drugs feels like something seen and perhaps done better elsewhere. This struggle to leave an impression isn’t new. 2018 saw both Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell drama Beautiful Boy and Ben is Back starring Julia Roberts. Both examined addiction with performances that felt true and worthy of the calibre of talent involved, yet disappeared without a trace more or less upon release. The film also mentions Deb’s past, where in order to escape her husband, she also abandoned her children. This detail is repeated and at times is used to suggest it was this upheaval that affected Molly and caused her descent into heroin. Yet it feels clumsily deployed and unsure if it wants to be used as a stick to beat Deb with or to illustrate Molly’s blame mentality.
Ultimately, Four Good Days is a serviceable look at addiction that is approached sensitively and is anchored with unflinching honesty. It will almost certainly fade into the ether, destined to sit and be discovered on a streaming service. But Kunis and Close make it worth a watch should it appear in a carousel of consideration.
Four Good Days will be in theatres from April 30, 2021