Four Good Days is anchored by two fine performances at the center of its story, which follows a mother’s relationship with a daughter caught in the throes of addiction. This mother-daughter dynamic has some basis in reality with the true stories of Libby Alexander and her daughter Amanda Wendler, whose addiction and attempt to squelch it was the basis of Eli Saslow’s 2016 article for The Washington Post. It’s a heart-wrenching story of forgiveness by the skin of one’s teeth, and here we have a dramatization starring Glenn Close as the mother and Mila Kunis, barely recognizable at first, as the daughter. Unfortunately, the natural state of being and thinking within these characters is perhaps beyond the purview of screenwriters Saslow and Rodrigo Garcia (who also directed).

And after all, did we really need yet another film depicting one person’s debilitating addiction as the target of judgment from a close relative? For Deb (Close), addiction is almost exclusively a burden intruding upon her privileged existence as, once upon a time, the president of her daughter’s PTA. Not until a late scene in which paranoia nearly overtakes her does her husband Chris (Stephen Root) remind her that addiction is not entirely within the control of its sufferer.

This is a realistic position to take, of course, but it doesn’t offer Saslow and Garcia the chance to explore anything new in the relationship between Deb and her daughter Molly (Kunis), whose first appearance is on the front porch of her old house. She is convinced she can get past her addictions to heroin, crack cocaine and the various opiates that followed a prescription from a doctor who was really a crony of big pharmaceutical. Deb, misunderstanding (either deliberately or through denial) her daughter’s condition, has long since lost interest in giving Molly any chances. Another doctor, who takes genuine and sympathetic interest in the case, offers a possible solution: an injection of an opiate antagonist to inhibit the receptors that respond to the addictive properties in those drugs.

There is one catch, though: Molly must cease using drugs and remain clean for three days for the shot to be efficient; otherwise, the shot will kick her system into withdrawal overdrive. This forces Deb to allow Molly to be in her company for that time, and the rest of the film uses the three-day structure to tidy up the loose ends of these two lives. Deb learns of the strain of addiction with a first-person reality check, such as a drive to the old neighborhood where a displaced Molly found refuge with fellow addicts and the gangs that enforce those drug deals. Molly tries everything to avoid the judgments of her stepdad, her sister (Carla Gallo) and anyone who might take one look at her splotchy skin and track marks and rotted teeth and guess what kind of person she is or what she might have done to reinforce her own addiction.

The two lead performances are strong. Close plays Deb as a fundamentally worried woman who believes herself to be acting purely out of love. Kunis avoids the obvious theatricality of Molly’s tics and twitches and smartly internalizes most of what could have been external and aggravating. Garcia, though, is all about playing this story with soap-opera theatrics, raising the dramatic stakes as much as possible. By the time the climax arrives and Molly’s crucial rendezvous with her chance at survival is treated as a reason to tease us and reveal (in the denouement) her fate after a medical scare, Four Good Days has lost its way.

Summary
Director Rodrigo Garcia is all about playing this story with soap-opera theatrics, raising the dramatic stakes as much as possible
50 %
Overly Dramatic
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