Adapted from a stage play by Christopher Shinn, the debut feature from Joshua Sanchez is a provocative rumination on race and sexuality set on a sweltering 4th of July evening.
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Joe (Wendell Pierce) is a middle-aged family man, an opinionated college professor with heartfelt passions, who is gay and in the closet. June (Emory Cohen) is a teenager who Joe has connected with online, an insecure young man who is trying to find his own identity. While Joe and June meet for an illicit tryst, Joe’s teenage daughter Abigayle (Aja Naomi King) tells her dad that all is fine, but wants to escape the pressures of the family home. She is drawn to cocky Latino basketball player Dexter (EJ Bonilla), a high-school drop-out whose arrogant posing masks his own deep insecurities. Adapted from a stage play by Christopher Shinn, and with Neil LaBute credited as executive producer, the debut feature from Joshua Sanchez is a provocative rumination on race and sexuality set on a sweltering 4th of July evening. The quartet of actors are courageously committed here, and were collectively awarded the Best Performance in the Narrative Competition after the film’s premiere at the LA Film Festival this year.
When I was a teenager, what I loved about driving around was the sheer act of moving forward, but not necessarily going anywhere. Growing up in suburban environments, my heart ached. I longed to be transplanted to a place where I was special, where the real me would somehow rise above the complacency of the world I saw around me. What I settled for was driving around, feeling as if I were moving, escaping, when I was really trapped in the same place, with no direction. Driving was an escape but not transcendence. Still, it was as close as I could get. The characters in Christopher Shinn’s Four find themselves in a similar predicament. Trapped in a world they feel isolated from, they drive aimlessly, circling round and round, hoping to hold on to an encounter that will make them feel alive. Joe, Abigayle, Dexter and June all desperately strive to connect to their own identities by reaching out to another person. They fail, but in Four, what really matters is the journey. And what a journey it is. Mesmerised by the repetitive, mundane vistas of a forgotten American city, we discover that this seemingly dreary landscape has an unforeseen power. Four takes place in spaces that seem unimportant, lonely and desolate, yet somehow throb with significance. Standing out against the passing generic strip-malls and fast-food restaurants, Joe, Abigayle, Dexter and June loom larger than life. Beneath the normalised surface, they live hidden lives, fearing the harsh judgements of their worlds, finding themselves only in the shadow of night, in the arms of strangers. I’m interested in characters who explore the spaces between what is said and what is acted upon. I’m interested in landscapes that interject unexpected theatricality and tension into mundane, mainstream American life. Four is a story that takes characters known to us all, in a city that seems forgettable, and makes them all extraordinary.
A native of Houston, Texas, he graduated from Columbia University’s MFA Film Program in 2004, and subsequently worked as an art director and editor at Edgeworx and PMcD Design in New York City. His short films INSIDE/out and Kill or Be Killed have screened at festivals internationally, and his ongoing experimental film project Screentests premiered at PS122 Gallery in New York in 2010. Four, an adaptation of the play by Christopher Shinn, is his first feature film.
2002 INSIDE/out [s]
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