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Anchored by strong performances by its four leads, Four is an intense and uncomfortable drama, yet certainly worth the watch.
The film follows two couples as they cruise around a glum Hartford suburb on the Fourth of July. There’s Joe (Wendell Pierce), a middle aged married man who arranges to hook up with June (Emory Cohen), a white teenage boy he met on the internet. Meanwhile, Joe’s teenage daughter Abigayle (Aja Naomi King) goes out with former basketball star Dexter (E.J. Bonilla). Each character hopes for a spark; each has something to hide.
The couples provide balance for each other as the interplay between Abigayle and Dexter (helped by a charming performance from Bonilla), often provides respite from the conflict between Joe and June. Joe works hard to connect and even inspire confidence in painfully shy June, while Dexter does his best to earn affection from aloof Abigayle. Yolonda Ross also makes a brief but haunting appearance as Joe’s wife and the uniting source between Joe and his daughter.
This is a far cry from anything we’ve seen from Pierce in the past, which could be unsettling to some. But the intriguing part of Four is that it moves beyond dirty secrets and illicit acts to uncover the layers of who characters are, and in the process raises questions of normalcy, sexuality, masculinity and race. The film doesn’t seem to preach, and though the characters’ choices may inspire disagreement or even disgust, ultimately, we understand them all.
Director Joshua Sanchez, who adapted the script from a play by Obie award-winning writer Christopher Shinn, has mentioned his desire for the film to capture the loneliness of suburban life. He seems to achieve this as the story lives - visually and figuratively - in darkness and shadows, playing out against a landscape of parking lots, alleys, and near-empty streets. When Abigayle looks out her passenger window at the gloomy town and struggles to think where they can possibly end up, we wonder the same.
At 76 minutes, Four is a quick but impactful watch.
The film was produced by Christine Giorgio and Pierce, with Allen Frame and Neil LaBute executive producing.
VOD and DVD distribution of the film will be handled by Wolfe Releasing.