Twenty years after making his first Sundance Film Festival appearance, Rodrigo Garcia arrived in Park City with his fifth Festival film, Four Good Days, jokingly referring to himself as an “indie-saurus” at the drama’s Saturday night premiere.
The film reunites him with Glenn Close, the star of Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000 Sundance Film Festival), Nine Lives (2005 Sundance Film Festival), and Albert Nobbs, which earned Close her sixth Oscar nomination.
Here, Close plays Deb, a suburban mom who must decide whether to help her addicted daughter Molly (Mila Kunis) go through detox for the 15th time. Molly just needs to stay clean for four days before she can get an opioid antagonist shot that could help her quit for good.
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Garcia began the Q&A by thanking the women whose real-life story the movie is based on, Amanda Wendler and her mother, Libby Alexander. Amanda’s struggle to get clean was profiled by Eli Saslow in a 2016 Washington Post article.
“It was both a wonderful and vast portrait of the [opiate] epidemic, but also a very specific microcosm of a mother and daughter and their dynamic—not beyond the addiction, but kind of heightened by the addiction,” Garcia said of Saslow’s article. “The problem always fascinates me, the problem with no solution. Do you abandon the child or become an enabler? Mothers and daughters—there’s a lot there, even without addiction.”
Close shared how she got into the mindset of a mother who was willing to turn away the daughter who had lied to her and stolen from her for 10 years: “I’m a mother myself. You want your child to be safe and you want your child to be healthy. I was fascinated, because the first scene was a mother locking her door to her daughter. And that began my exploration into how somebody could do that. When you think of the years and the 14 times in and out of rehab—how many times do you go through it? A mother never gives up hope. And I think maybe that’s her weakness and maybe that’s her strength. I don’t think there’s an easy answer for it.”
Kunis has perhaps her most challenging and dramatic role of her career as the often manipulative Molly, but she said that her costar made it all effortless. “I love Glenn Close,” Kunis declared. “You can’t fake chemistry. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I got really lucky with Glenn, so I’m incredibly fortunate. I barely worked.”
The Q&A took a humorous turn when someone in the audience asked Kunis if she had ever done heroin in real life. “Me? I’m so lame. No. I’m sorry, I’ve never done heroin,” she said in her best deadpan.
The director jokingly added, “Mila gets high on Diet Coke.”
Garcia prompted more laughter when Kunis said that the main appeal of the film for her was getting to work with him. “Expand on that a little,” he prompted her. She added that she’s a “huge fan of his” and making the decision to do the movie was a “no-brainer.”
When asked whether what happened to her character was based on real life, Kunis explained, “The unfortunate answer is the real Amanda didn’t stay clean. She ended up relapsing multiple times. I think you take it day by day and you hope that this one sticks. And in real life, it didn’t. And then it did. It’s a cycle, unfortunately.”