Adolfo Alix Jr.’s LGBT-themed 4 Days may be imperfect, but it’s exactly the reason why it reflects the authenticity of a flawed and complicated relationship between two lovers whose love screams for the need to be freed.
Set in the campus of the University of the Philippines – Diliman, 4 Days follows the story of roommates Derek (Sebastian Castro) and Mark (Mikoy Morales), whose relationship blossomed from platonic to romantic, structured in a narrative time capsule of 4 Valentines days.
Director Adolfo Alix Jr. wisely utilized the concept of space as to how the characters move in their own worlds, using contra-distinctive shots as to how little they are versus how big their outside world is. How the film flaunts multiple vast, aerial shots of the UP Diliman campus serve as a great contrast in showing how small, air-tight, and almost claustrophobic the relationship of Derek and Mark is, which is confined in the very little portals of their own bedroom. This serves as the catalyst of each of the characters’ difference in rationales: Derek, as the one who’s used to his comfort zone, and Mark, as the one who struggles to breathe and wants the bigger environment outside. This also can be deduced when Mark’s voice over is played whenever the camera pans at the aerial shots. Not only this suggests that he’s the one who constantly sees the outside world, but it also is a manifestation that, as someone whose love is imprisoned, he wants the freedom that his love deserves. The direction is poetic in a very subtle way; it’s never self-absorbed. It is a great example how specific and well-thought mise en scenes can greatly affect the entire mood of a film. In terms of its atmosphere, Alix has aced it right off the bat.
The long, uninterrupted takes effectively create a slow burn tension both in silence and in outbursts. The length of these takes is a trial of patience not only for the audience, but also for the characters, as both Derek and Mark take us into their shoes. They make us feel both the awkward restraint, and the jarring outbursts their relationship contains.
Mikoy Morales’ performance as Mark is effortlessly on point, you’d sometimes forget it’s a film you’re watching. How ordinary his portrayal is what makes it extraordinary. His rawness creates a great chiaroscuro to the star turning screen presence of Sebastian Castro, which serves as major points for a good casting: Morales as the wallflower, and Castro as the womanizer, which they have accurately achieved both aesthetically and substantially.
The biggest setback of the film is its structure. In a nutshell, the narrative felt like it skipped a couple of chapters ahead. It peaked way too soon during the moments when the characters were supposed to be established individually. That being said, it is rather far fetching to sympathize with these characters because we weren’t given the chance to actually know who they are other than the prototypes they represent. As a viewer, I didn’t feel like I grew with the characters; they developed rather rapidly, to the point where I ended up not knowing who they are anymore, particularly in the latter half. We feel for the idea of their situation, but not for them as people. Perhaps, the drawback is due to the over-emphasis on a year’s single day, which haphazardly summarizes everything in congested sit-down conversations. This led to a couple of self-contradicting behaviors and irrational responses. It left me wanting to know them more. However, the actors’ commitment gave everything what their characters and the story did not.
Despite a couple of casualties in its storytelling, 4 Days is a testament of an assertive, experimental, mood-driven film-making of seeing the unspoken language in a director eyes. The final scene basically sums up its intentions and goals — the freedom of love should be at nobody’s expense.