In a small town somewhere in the South, four restless souls venture out into the hot July 4th night in search of something. Exactly what they each seek is unclear, even to them.
June (Emory Cohen) is not much for the barbeque happening in the backyard with his family. He stays just long enough to make an appearance, then tells his mother is going to see fireworks with friends. What he actually does is met up with Joe (Wendell Pierce). On this internet hookup, the white teenager and the robust middle-aged Black man drive the streets of nowhere, getting to know each other, with the ultimate reason for their hookup remains largely unspoken. Despite June consent to go through with the date, Joe sees the teen struggles with his identity and see this as an opportunity to give back to a lost gay man.
Before Joe and June step into a movie, Joe makes his routine call to his daughter, Abigayle (Aja Naomi King). She thinks he is in Boston; at least that’s what Joe tells her. For her part, Abigayle is trapped in a prison of boredom and angst because she needs to babysit her reclusive mother (Yolonda Ross) who never comes out of her room. On the verge of going stir crazy, Abigayle talk a flirtation with a local boy Dexter (E.J. Bonilla) to the next level by sneaking out for a while.
Both father and daughter have brief intimate encounters with their partners of convenience. They each spend the evening driving empty streets, searching for something; never dreaming they might find each other.
The film tells the story of people who are both trying to reach out and resisting the company of a stranger, despite the gut wrenching loneliness that is slowly swallowing them whole. All four characters are extremely sympathetic, but there is never the sense that any of these people will win in their struggle. They all want more or something, but there is never real hope for the audience that they will ever escape their own mundane existence.
Four is touted as a compelling character study, and indeed it is. However, I can’t help but harken back to one of the first rules of storytelling: we meet these characters this night of all night, for a reason. And because of what transpires on that specific fateful night, the character is changed. These characters don’t change. Perhaps the message is lost in translation as the film is an adaptation of a stage play. Nevertheless, Four the film, is beautifully acted piece that doesn’t say anything.