I’ve always been a fan of simplicity and uncomplicated messages within the script of a film. Put aside the massive CGI special effects and star actors getting paid millions for a 90-second appearance in a film, and you’re left with the raw core of what films are meant to do: Entertain and, hopefully, provoke emotion with ideas.
"Four" does just that. New to Wolfe Video, "Four" is the story of one evening in the lives of four residents in an unnamed New York suburb on The Fourth of July. There’s Abigayle (Aja Naomi King), an adolescent girl growing up too fast; her father Joe (Wendell Pierce), carrying out a computer-instigated meet up with young teen June (Emory Cohen); and Dexter (E.J. Bonilla), Abigayle’s drug addicted boyfriend from an ethnically and economically suppressed nearby part of town.
The film carries out a theme throughout, centering around a slice of what "real" America is like. Each character is courageously battling his or her own demons, while searching for love and self-respect along the way. June is a distant teen struggling with a low self-image and his own homosexuality. Abigayle struggles with the love of her father, witnessing his vulnerabilities, and the prematurely delivered adult-like responsibilities she’s forced to carry out, taking care of her mysterious debilitated mother lurking in the shadows of her bedroom. Dexter is concerned with getting out of the ghetto and trying to rise above the cards he’s been dealt. Joe is beset with a different kind of loneliness, reminiscing about his promiscuous younger days.
Like fireworks exploding in the sky, the portrayals of these four characters is explosive, energetic, and awe-inspiring to watch. The relationships of these characters are dutifully illustrated, so much so, that what may be a doubt that these couples could blend well (especially Joe and June) seem natural and intriguingly organic.
Director Joshua Sanchez adapts this film from Christopher Shinn’s premiere stage play, first produced in London in 1998, when no American producer showed any interest. Sanchez’ reworking of the story is splendid, with the exception of some dialogue within a pivotal scene between Cohen and Pierce about what June wants in his life. The film is beautifully shot. Kudos to Cinematographer Gregg Conde, who captures the intimacy between the characters that one may have experienced when watching the acclaimed play as it was performed on the small stage. The film’s arc and character goals are reminiscent of existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre’s "No Exit": Characters who are all objects in the other characters’ worlds of want and consciousness fighting their wants, and not accepting who they are.
Wolfe Video presents "Four" on DVD, complete with commentary by Director Joshua Sanchez and actor Emory Cohen, "Four"’s Theatrical Trailer, and a very nice 12-minute featurette, exploring the origin of the work, as well as the messages of the film: Humanity, compassion, benevolence, and the desire for love.