4:44 Last Day on Earth ★★

Second viewing. Funny how in revisiting this in such close proximity with my first watch, I’ve discovered that while my initial assessment has remained more or less consistent, my reasoning has shifted so drastically. Figure I’ll get the most important things out of the way first: no, I don’t think that the montages are exposition dumps (and even if they were as bothersome as I’d originally stated, they’re so infrequent that it wouldn’t really matter in the first place), and no, I no longer think of the constant transition of our characters’ identities as a negative. It’s now much clearer to me that that the inclusion of the montages is a means to broaden the scope of the otherwise small-scale story taking place—I found myself appreciating them so much more this time around, realizing how much of a claustrophobic slog the alternative would be. As for the jarring mood swings I initially took issue with, upon rewatch it’s now perfectly understandable that our characters would react they way they do considering the turmoil they’re under. So, with all this in mind...what gives? 

As much as the more subtle sentimentalities (Cisco feeling up Skye’s body one last time, a deliver boy’s cleverly unsubtitled Skype call, a beautiful look into a dog’s final meal etc.) give this film undeniable emotional weight, there’s something about its base-level expectation for you to be drawn in by our characters’ circumstance that left me near entirely unaffected—Dafoe comes closest to pulling off the goal of complete viewer investment through his remarkable performance, but Leigh’s efforts are often so unconvincing that his work here is almost irreversibly slighted. It’s quite a shame, because the ideas Ferrara is exploring here are some of the most human I’ve ever seen him take on. The themes here are certainly universal, but the way they resonate depends so heavily on viewer connection that one’s enjoyment of 4:44 is pretty much impossible to guarantee.

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