Four good days. That's it. Four good days. A quartet of 24 hour blocks where you're free to do anything you want -- except drugs. Of course you won't feel like doing anything in the world except drugs. But that's the trick. If you can make it through four days, you'll never again need to do drugs.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? Sure. If you're not addicted to opioids. If you are addicted, well, four good days sounds absolutely excruciating. That's probably because it is absolutely excruciating. Four full days denying your body something that it's literally screaming for? Just thinking about it is enough to scare the hell out of you.
And yet... If you can hold on hard enough, long enough, all the life-draining drug stuff could very well be over forever.
That's basically the premise behind the movie Four Good Days (Vertical Entertainment). See, an opioid addict needs four full days of clean time before their body can handle a shot of opioid-blocking naltrexone. Otherwise they'll suffer what's called induced withdrawal, which is not only 10 times more painful than regular withdrawal, it's also 10 times more life-threatening. Once they've gotten that shot though, they can slip through the door to sobriety. Why? Because from then on that opioid antagonist will keep heroin, fentanyl, OxyContin and every other opioid from having any effect. It'll keep you from craving 'em too.
Sounds like a plan, no? It sure does to daughter Molly (Mila Kunis) and mother Deb (Glenn Close). It also sounds like the only plan they've got. Molly's tried everything else. And no matter what she tries the opioids return, often even more debilitating than before. Molly's also tried Deb's patience, as well as her tolerance, endurance, empathy and understanding. On more occasions than either one of them can count. Or would even want to count. She's also relentlessly tried her Mom's love. This most definitely will be the last last time.
As you might suspect, things get worse before they get more worse. They also get ugly then uglier. Turns out those four days are more horrific than advertised. And Molly tries to rip the skin from the very sky before they're over. There's screaming and yelling, blow-ups and blowbacks, aspersions and recriminations. There's also tears. Gut-wrenching sobs that reach from the screen, grab you by the collar and double you over. Yeah, it really is that well played.
Produced and directed by Rodrigo García, who co-wrote the screenplay with Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow, upon whose piece the film is based, Four Good Days is a jarringly inspiring addition to the recovery movie canon. It's also compelling cinema.
A Recovery Rainbow
Recovery stories aren't new to film audiences of course. But the naltrexone narrative will be new to a lot of people. Even people familiar with addiction and recovery. That's largely because naltrexone is the least used recovery method out there. And because when the drug is used, it's success rate is marginal at best.
Naltrexone also involves considerable pain and discomfort. While available in a daily pill form, physicians recommend the monthly extended-release injection. That intramuscular shot hurts though. Lots, say some. Rendering few folks too enthusiastic about taking it.
Much worse by far though are the four days preceding that shot, which are essentially akin to going cold turkey. That's probably because it basically is cold turkey, and as such packs all of its usual pains. Due to the need to be completely free from opioids, the patient is denied access to any standard detox weaning drug (i.e. methadone or buprenorphine). That makes for the miserable but necessary four good days in the film's title.
What keeps people addicted to opioid long after the charm has gone is the sheer, unmitigated torture that comes with kicking cold turkey. Consequently they'll usually do everything they can to avoid it. For the few who do dare try to endure, the majority bow out by day two. Many even throw in the towel on the third day, despite being just 24 hours away from a world of promise. The pain is that great.
Picture naltrexone as a recovery rainbow, except this rainbow is concave and colored only by black and blue. There is a proverbial pot of gold at the end though, and it's filled with a priceless treasure called sobriety.
In Praise of Four Good Days
Four Good Days had us going from the get. We figured if the full-length film was even a fraction as powerful as the trailer, we'd be in for a flooring. Hell, by the time the two-minute and change preview had ended, we were reaching for our Big Book, as well as a big box of tissues. We were also reaching for an applause machine. Why? Because what we witnessed deserved an entire crowdful of clapping.
Then again, that's much to be expected from talents like Close and Kunis. Close, of course, has been knocking 'em dead for decades, and it's highly unlikely her aim will ever be anything but true. Kunis, who charmed everyone in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and truly cemented her big screen cred in Black Swan, risked a lot to go toe-to-toe with Close. Sure teaming with a veteran usually helps a younger actor up their game. But it could just as easily reveal any deficiencies. Kunis however already had an A Game, and that's just what she brought to Four Good Days. So when she went toe-to-toe with Close, both actors upped their games accordingly. The result proved Mila Kunis was more than worthy of sharing the screen with a legendary gem like Glenn Close.
Recovery Boot Camp and Healing Properties salute both Kunis and Close for so deftly playing such a timely and necessary story. We also salute both Garcia and Saslow for bringing such a timely and necessary story to screen in the first place. An extra nod goes to Garcia for so resolutely realizing the tale, and to Saslow for so diligently getting out there and bringing it in. We'd also like to salute both Libby Alexander and Amanda Wendler, the metro Detroit mother/daughter duo who actually lived the story. It took great courage to allow their tale to be told before the whole wild world, and the whole wild world should be grateful for their courageous display.
What about you? Have you run up against opioids? Are you perhaps seeking four good days? Help is out there, you know. Wherever you are. All you've got to do is phone. NIDA. SAMHSA. RBC. HP. We're all ready, willing and eager to help get you help.
(Top Image Courtesy The Playlist)