The 30-ish recovering addict is addressing a high school classroom about the horrors of drug abuse and how she was sleeping on the streets as recently as last week and how getting high is the only way she can forget about the mess she has made of her life — and that’s when a girl in a jean jacket looks at her in that judgmental way 15-year-olds will look at you, and the student says, “Then just don’t.”
“Excuse me?” says the recovering addict.
“Sorry, I would never let myself fall that far,” says the girl.
And that’s when the woman in front of the class launches into a diatribe that nobody in that room will ever forget, and we won’t either.
We’ve seen Mila Kunis on screens big and small for some 20 years, from “That ’70s Show” through dramas such as “Black Swan” and hit comedies such as “Ted” and the “Bad Moms” movies, but her performance as a woman who has put herself and her loved ones through hell in the formulaic but resonant drug-recovery tale “Four Good Days” represents the finest work she has done. It’s not just the physical transformation, though it’s startling to see Kunis with mottled skin and doll’s hair and missing teeth, looking so emaciated it’s as if she’s a little kid wearing her big siblings’ clothes; it’s the utterly convincing mannerisms and tics, the way her eyes shift when she’s lying again, the looks of profound sadness and desperation as she realizes if she doesn’t turn things around — if she doesn’t finally turn things around — she’s not long for this life.
Directed with no-frills efficiency by Rodrigo García and based on a Washington Post story about the experiences of a real-life mother and her grown daughter, “Four Good Days” has echoes of recent films such as “Beautiful Boy” and “Ben Is Back,” in which the prodigal offspring returneth to parent(s) who have reached their limits with the lying and the stealing and the arrests and the rehabs and the relapses, and have vowed not to help any more — but then they help again, because after all, this is their child.
Kunis is Molly, who has been hooked on heroin, methadone, crack, et al., for 10 years and has been in detox 14 times; Glenn Close is heartbreakingly good as her mother, Deb, who reluctantly agrees to help Molly one last time. If Molly can make it through three days of detox and then four days at home without getting high, she’ll receive an injection of Naltrexone, which eliminates the cravings for drugs and the highs as well for a full month. Over the course of those four long days, we meet Molly’s ex-husband (Joshua Leonard) and the two children who are almost strangers to her; Deb’s second husband (Stephen Root); her biological father (Sam Hennings), and her estranged sister (Carla Gallo).
All of them, and no doubt many others, have had their lives greatly impacted by Molly’s disease. Some of them have given up on her.
Not everyone. The mother-daughter dynamic in “Four Good Days” is powerful and lasting and devastating and maybe the thing that will help Molly save her life.