Producers: Jon Avnet, Marina Grasic, Jake Avnet, Jai Khanna and Rodrigo Garcia Director: Rodrigo Garcia Screenplay: Eli Saslow and Rodrigo Garcia Cast: Glenn Close, Mila Kunis, Stephen Root, Joshua Leonard, Sam Hennings, Michael Hyatt, Carla Gallo, Nicholas Oteri, Audrey Lynn, Carlos Lacamara, Rebecca Field, Nina Millin, Brian Shortall, Rebecca Tilney, Gloria Garavua, Chad Lindberg, Gabriella Flores, Mandy June Turpin and Kim Delgado Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Based on Eli Saslow’s 2016 Washington Post article “How’s Amanda? A Story of Truth, Lies and an American Addition,” Rodrigo Garcia’s docu-drama is an earnest but familiar tale of a desperate mother’s struggle to keep her heroin-addicted daughter clean for a week so that she can qualify for treatment with naltroxone, a drug that makes it impossible to get high by blocking the effect of opioids on the brain.
The real-life figures Saslow wrote about are Libby Alexander and her daughter Amanda Wendler, whom—in the usual fashion—we glimpse in a still before the closing credits roll. In the screenplay fashioned by Saslow and Garcia, however, they have become Deb (Glenn Close) and Molly (Mila Kunis).
Molly, who we eventually learn got hooked on prescription pain killers after an accident, has been a heroin addict for years, in and out of rehab multiple times, always unsuccessfully. Deb has finally decided to practice tough love, and with support from her husband Chris (Stephen Root), has banned her daughter from the house.
But when Molly shows up one day begging for help, Deb is torn. At first she insists that Molly leave, but finally succumbs to her entreaties that she help her get into the naltroxone program, and Deb reluctantly agrees to bring her home and make sure she stays clean for the four days needed to allow her to begin it.
Understandably, it proves a difficult struggle, with Deb herself, as well as other family members and outsiders, doubtful about whether Molly will make it. There are some positive moments, as when Molly goes before a class to use her own experience to encourage the students to resist taking drugs. But there are troubling ones as well, as when she takes opportunities to fraternize with her friends who are still shooting up. And when Deb visits Molly’s father (Sam Hennings) to ask him to intervene, he brusquely refuses.
When it comes to wrapping up the story, Deb is forced to make a choice that’s at odds with her principles but a necessity she can’t resist. Some viewers might question her decision, and even wonder whether given it, the treatment will work. Nonetheless it’s apparently in line with the facts, and does convey the complexities a loving parent must struggle with in such cases.
As a contribution to the cinematic treatment of the effects of the opioid epidemic that continues to plague the country, “Four Good Days” is admirable, especially as it’s directed without needless flourishes by Garcia by competently put together by the technical team—cinematographer Igor Jadue-Lillo, production designer Lauren Connelly, with a score by Edward Shearmur that’s appropriate to the desperation of the situation.
It’s also blessed with an exemplary cast. The supporting performers all bring authenticity to the story, but the leads carry it. Kunis brings commitment and intensity to the unfortunate Molly, but it’s Close who raises the film beyond movie-of-the-week territory with a turn that avoids the overwrought histrionics she brought to the recent “Hillbilly Elegy,” instead radiating honesty and nuance. This is ac reminder of how good she can be.
Still, except for her the film is earnest and well-intentioned, but also rather predictable and by-the-numbers. It tells Libby and Amanda’s story decently enough, but it’s a story you’re likely to have heard before.