Brighton 4th : ‘Tribeca’ Review – The journey of an ex-wrestler is a poignant and funny father-son story
“Brighton 4th” is the journey of a Georgian ex-wrestler to Brooklyn, New York. At its core, it is a poignant and funny father-son story. It is also a movie about a very specific subset of the American population, a very Georgian subset in the neighborhood near Brighton Beach. And whether intentionally or unintentionally, 90% of the cast are people of seniority.
When director Levan Koguashvili was asked in an interview by Cineuropa about his proclivity for noticing faces, he said that “You have to adapt your directorial style to them because the face is the truth”, and that is the secret sauce in a way for the movie. Koguashvili cast a combination of both actors and non-actors, lending a sense of authenticity and credence to these roles. And because the majority of the cast are non-actors, somehow the sincerity shines through – the exasperation of these people, the almost laissez-faire methodology of leading a life in America, sidestepping the pesky aspects of the law on account of these people being illegal immigrants, and living a life on rapidly expiring tourist visas, its a fascinating exploration of the American Dream, more or less.
Related to Brighton 4th – 25 Must-See Films At Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2019
But at its core, Brighton 4th is a father-son story. More specifically, it’s a story of a father coming to the aid of his son due to a gambling debt in a country almost alien to him. The fun and almost sweet and dry humor comes from both the son’s exhibition of affection towards his father and vice versa, as well as the almost silent disappointment and exasperation the father feels when he sees his son slipping back to his old ways.
Being a man of few words, we are required to discern the feelings of all these major characters through their facial tics, the contours, the lines of their faces, and their lips. Koguashvili and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael really bring to life the faces of the mostly unknown cast, and their ability to emote through silences. Papamichael is also successful in showcasing the claustrophobia of the boarding house near Brighton Beach – a stark contrast to the bright or rain-drenched environment of the outside world – perhaps to show the close-knit or insular nature of the community, in spite of the community becoming Americanized over the years.
It’s the performances that are the key talking points – Levan Tediashvili, a non-actor, and a real-life Olympic Legend plays Kakhi with a self-deprecating authenticity and sincerity in the emotional moments. His relationship with his son is heartwarming too, but it is Koguashvili’s willingness to use Levan with his age and physical ailments that make it a part of his character. The final wrestling match is both pitiful as well as full of stakes – both in Levan’s reclamation of his own identity as a wrestler, as well as trying to finally nip his son’s gambling issues in the bud. The laconic nature of Kakhi’s character and an almost bemused alacrity adds to the charm of a character supposed to be from an earlier era.
It is fascinating the layers I could discover on a second go around. But it is the core thesis of the movie which affects me far more than I realize. The story of a father promising to solve his son’s problem and bringing him back really hit him. This is the support system and a comforting presence that those who have it, should acknowledge and appreciate, and those who don’t should remember and be strengthened by. At once a story about the life of immigrants in America, as well as the power of community, Brighton 4th is a movie which should be seen by all, simply because of the stark simplicity of its story-telling.