Addiction's Challenges Explored in "Four Good Days"

Many filmmakers have attempted to covey the chilling realities of addiction, but few have succeeded to the degree of director Rodrigo Garcia in his film Four Good Days. Premiering on January 25th at Sundance Film Festival, Four Good Days addressed what addiction looks like from two perspectives. Mila Kunis plays the role of a struggling addict named Molly, a victim of heroin and other opioids. Battling her urges to relapse, Molly turns to her mother Deb, portrayed by Glenn Close, to comfort her through the pain of detox. Reluctant at first, Deb tells Molly “don’t come back until you are clean” several times before she gives in and offers her help. Garcia nails the pain of addiction not only for the addict, but for everyone in their life.

During a Q&A session, Garcia revealed that the characters of Molly and Deb were based on a real-life mother daughter duo who had faced the battles of opioid abuse. Although many of the specifics within the movie are unique to the original narrative of the mother daughter pair, in many ways Four Good Days is a reality for millions.

Addiction and Family Relationships

Garcia’s choice to focus primarily on the relationship of the mother and the daughter did more than achieve a heart-wrenching piece of cinematography, but it took the complexities of drug addiction and interwove it with the tangled nature of mother daughter relationships. More than a simple plot choice, this is reality. Most girls go through phases with their mothers-- it’s as if they are a girl’s best friend and worst enemy at the same time. Numerous times throughout the film, Garcia cuts over to Close’s character in tears; however, we don’t see as much of that soft emotion from Kunis. While it is evident that Kunis’s character wants to break free of her addiction, she is hardly capable of seeing the pain it is causing those around her, especially her mother.

Addiction is not a choice, but a disease as is made clear in the film, yet today’s society continues to stigmatize this demographic of the population as junkies, tweakers, and poppers. How does this help the problem? America is currently in a public health crisis due to the opioid epidemic, and Four Good Days, gives views some reasons why to ponder.

Treatment of Addiction

Science has come a long way since the 1900s, and it is becoming clearer each day that addiction has societal, behavioral, physical, and biological components. According to the American Addiction centers, biological make-up contributes to 40-60 percent of the risk for addictive behaviors. Meanwhile, environmental factors even further increase one’s chances of drug addiction. In the film, Molly’s mother walked out on her family, her father struggled with alcohol addiction, and her parents got divorced when she was a vulnerable adolesent. Much of Molly’s addiction could be considered predestined. However, despite us knowing that for many people struggling with addiction, the odds were stacked against them to begin with, society continues to show a lack of empathy. In the film, Molly attempts to absolve herself of her wrongs by speaking with a health education class. When sharing her story, a young girl within the class pipes up and asks, “Why don’t you just stop”? Although Garcia decides to make this rage provoking sentence come from the mouth of a young child, it could have come from anyone within a large portion of Americans.

Availability

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), as of 2019, everyday 130 people within the United States die as a result of opioid usage while between 8-12 percent of the population was projected to develop an opioid use disorder. Just as Molly did in Four Good Days, most people who begin using heroin start with abusing prescribed pain medications. On multiple occasions it is brought up that Molly’s addiction began after being prescribed pain medications for an injury. The NIDA attributes the birth of the crisis to the abundance of opioids in the 1990s. Today restrictions are in place, but many would argue that legal opioids are still far too accessible.

Overall, Rodrigo Garcia created a cinematic masterpiece with a message of empathy we should all take away. Those who are struggling with addiction, like Molly, may have difficulting accessing their empathy; however, those supporting them through it may be able to give a little extra to make up for it. Love and understanding come in many shapes and forms, and some may appear harsh at first glimpse. When you look at the mother daughter dynamic in Four Good Days, tough love is displayed at it’s finest. Addiction is an issue that affects everyone whether directly or indirectly. The narrative of opioid addiction is especially timely for the current state of the US, and I believe every individual can take something away from this film that will benefit both their relationships with loved ones and greater society as a whole.

Information:

https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-statistics

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

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