Four Good Days

There are dozens of movies about drug addiction. I don't know that Four Good Days does anything that hasn't already been done before, but it does depict the struggles exceedingly well. I have known addicts. I've known grieving families who felt helpless because they couldn't make a loved one get clean. A lot of truth resides in this movie. Coupled with two strong lead performances, that makes it a rich and incisive work.

Mila Kunis is Molly, a hardcore junkie. When we first meet her, she shows up at the door of her mother, Deb (Glenn Close), looking for a place to detox. Deb has been here before, though. She's tried to help her daughter over the course of a decade, only to get taken advantage of. That isn't something she intends to let happen again. After some sparring, she does agree to drive Molly to a treatment center.

Upon discharge, Molly is offered an injection of Naltrexone, a medication that will block her system from the effects of opioids for a month. It could be a game-changer in her recovery, but she has to be completely substance-free for four days before she can get it. At this point, Deb agrees to take her in, over the objections of her husband Chris (Stephen Root). Molly appears motivated, although there are triggers, including the re-emergence of her ex-husband Sean (Joshua Leonard) and their mistrustful children.

The dynamics portrayed in Four Good Days are riveting. Deb is determined to practice tough love because she can't bear being an enabler anymore. She lives in a constant state of suspicion with her daughter because of past incidents. That suspicion causes her to track every move Molly makes, worry about every phone call, and generally assumes everything will go to hell, just as it did in the past. For her part, Molly resents this suspicion, often lashing out. But it's not really Deb she's mad at, it's herself, because she knows all too well that she created the situation. 

The two stars dive fearlessly into this toxic relationship. Mila Kunis probably doesn't get enough credit for being as good an actress as she is. Her Molly -- with rotted teeth and a ruined complexion from drug use -- is barely holding on. Kunis helps us feel that four days might as well be four years for this woman. Every ounce of frustration and impatience is palpable. 

Glenn Close is equally excellent playing the parental side of the equation. Having to micromanage Molly weights on her, and she lives in perpetual fear of this not being her daughter's rock bottom. Just as much, she's fully prepared to flog herself if she gets fooled another time. There are many layers to Deb's anguish. Close reveals every single one of them with great potency.

Written and directed by Rodrigo García (Mother and Child), Four Good Days is a closely-observed look at the toll long-term hardcore addiction takes on families. The movie rarely hits a wrong note, and even incorporates a little humor to help the drama go down. Again, there's not much here that's original. It's done so well, though, that the film still ranks as one of the best stories of its kind in the last decade. 


out of four

Four Good Days is rated R for drug content, language throughout and brief sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.