Four Good Days tells the story of heroin, methadone, and crack addict Molly (Mila Kunis). An addict for ten years, she shows no signs of recovering despite her many attempts. When she shows up at her mother, Deb’s (Glenn Close), she promises that this time it will be different.
The main question presented in Four Good Days, is how this time will be any different from the fourteen previous detoxes. If Molly can make it through three days of detox and then four days at home sober, she can receive an injection of Naltrexone. This will eliminate the drug cravings for a full month. With this end goal in sight, the pair believe this time she might actually make it.
Mila Kunis gives a surprisingly layered performance as Molly. It’s a non-distracting and very realistic physical transformation, with the normal glamorous star looking emaciated with sallow mottled skin. Her scraggly blonde hair has a three-inch black root and tail ends, her gums and rotted and her skin yellow. It takes a while to buy into her performance, but by the end, she sells the internal conflict and shame of addiction.
Glenn Close is reliably captivating, although limited in character development, as Molly. She is furious with her daughter, untrusting after she pawned her wedding ring for drugs, and hellbent on making sure this time is different. Close is easier to sympathise with. She is paranoid about leaving her daughter alone, or with money, she is guarded and often foul-mouthed. While she will support her daughter to the end of the earth, she might not trust her with her purse.
The dynamic between the pair is fascinating. Deb is tired, Molly has already been through the detox enough times to know what making it out the other side doesn’t always mean long-lasting success, having to monitor her adult daughter like she was a toddler. There is a tenderness between the pair, despite the bitterness and resentment. The first hour of the film sets up their current and past relationships, and family dynamic.
The dramatic centre of Four Good Days is their standout monologues. Molly, at one point, addresses a class of high school students with an emotional yet articulate speech about addiction. She was also one of those girls who didn’t think it would happen to her, in fact, she still believes she’s not the type of girl who would throw it all away. Deb’s second husband (Stephen Root) delivers a less emotional but still impactful speech about the futility of looking for the reasons behind her addiction and how useless blaming yourself for it.
For every glimmer of hope that Molly is really going to turn things around this time, there is also a refusal for Deb to fully give into that positivity, monitoring her like a toddler and rushing home upon realising she left her purse behind. There are all the expected ups and downs of becoming sober, similarly mirroring scenes from films like 2018’s Beautiful Boy.
At times, Four Good Days, feels like a waiting game. We are put in Deb’s anxiety-inducing shoes, waiting for Molly to screw up. Molly guilt-trips her mother, always blaming others for her addiction (her parents abandoned her, her doctor prescribed her painkillers as a teenager), but the film doesn’t delve enough into the actual reasoning behind her issues. Molly guilt-tripping her already guilty and clearly caring mother is often painful to watch, and sometimes paints Molly as the bad guy.
Too many other personal dimensions are side-lined. Deb escaped a bad marriage to her fiery ex-husband (Sam Hennings) and semi-abandoned her two daughters. Molly’s sister (Carla Gallo) is a level-headed but an entirely obnoxious lawyer, bitter that she has always come to second to Molly. Molly herself has an ex-husband (Joshua Leonard) and two children who she abandoned. The scenes where she spends the day reunited with her son and daughter are touching but all too brief.
Four Good Days are sympathetic to addiction and addicts, based on a memoir by Nic Sheff and his father, journalist David Sheff. The story first came to the public’s attention in Washington Post, by reporter Eli Saslow, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, Nine Lives). The film is watchable and entirely plausible, but also lacks the soul to pull at the audience’s heartstrings. Whilst it realistically explores addiction and their struggles at sobering up, it’s not an engaging watch.
Any emotional depths the film’s first hour may have dredged up is thrown away in favour of an entirely familiar and flat ending. Close and Kunis’ performances are wasted on a paint by numbers addiction drama. Although it finds compassions for the topic, it lacks the edge to make an impact.
Four Good Days lacks the dramatic finale act that hits a much-needed emotional punch. While it never stops being convincing, the film is also too earnest and ultimately boring. It is a very touching and realistic portrayal of addiction, down to the dullness and repetitive nature of detoxing.
Four Good Days is out in select cinemas now
by Amelia Harvey
Amelia is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy