‘Four Good Days’ offers a bleak family tale of addiction

New film starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis doesn't elevate the genre

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
"Four Good Days"

There are a lot of movies tackling the subject of addiction. "Four Good Days" is one of them, and it doesn't stand out. 

Despite the mostly valiant efforts of its two leads, a talented director and the real-life story from which it pulls, the film is too often disappointingly bleak and veers into TV-movie-of-the-week territory. 

In a tone-setting early scene, Molly (Mila Kunis) arrives at the home of her mother Deb (Glenn Close) to discover that her key to the front door no longer works. The reason for the lock change? Molly previously stole from her parents to support her drug habit. The terse conversation at the door quickly reveals a decade of addiction and the strain it has put on this mother-daughter relationship.

It’s also immediately painful to watch a mother turn a hurting daughter away, but we get a quick sense of the actions that led to that moment. In this instance, Molly was showing up in a good faith, although she had used heroin recently. She wants to clean up her life, and Deb has to navigate a past of broken promises and her own enabling.

In one particularly strong scene, Molly addresses a high school class about her own addiction, reflecting a decade of use that cost her a relationship with her two children and has her living with her mother at age 31.

Director Rodrigo Garcia works from a script co-written by Eli Saslow and based on Saslow’s Washington Post article recounting this true story. While there is care taken to tell the story with empathy, there are also some cringe moments that fall into the cliches of onscreen tales of addiction.

For Kunis, it’s a showcase of her dramatic chops that haven’t been seen much since “Black Swan.” She’s virtually unrecognizable in the gaunt and disheveled appearance that is a hallmark of depicting heroin addiction onscreen, including some dental caps to reflect tooth loss that are accurate but distracting to the point of comical.

While there’s a tendency toward the sort of twitchy, itchy mannerisms that characterize many onscreen portrayals of addiction, Kunis does bring her all to the role and creates someone who is not a caricature.

Close also has moments of brilliance and questionable decisions. She grasps the nuance of a mother who has seen the trust she had in her daughter disintegrate, and it elevates the movie having an actor of her caliber in the role. But it’s also a bit too evocative of her recent turn in “Hillbilly Elegy,” for which she received Oscar and Razzie nominations.

Ultimately, “Four Good Days” will resonate with the many families that have been touched by opioid addiction, but it doesn’t elevate to the levels of other films on the topic.

“Four Good Days”