Levan Koguashvili tells a generations-spanning tale and finds beautiful fragility in the all-men’s-world he paints. Brighton 4th (2021) might not be up everyone’s alley due to the slowburn character of its narrative, however, those patient enough will be served a gratifying pay off.
In Georgia, a rather poor country located in the Caucasus region, there are hardly the same perspectives as in the U.S., the destination still idealized by the half-live American Dream. Director Levan Koguashvili sets things in motion when Kakhi’s son is rumored to have financial problems in the dreamland on the other side of the world. Kakhi – 60-something former wrestler – wastes no time and travels to Brooklyn. As he learns on the spot, his son owes money to local mobsters, and since money doesn’t grow on trees, Kakhi tries to help out the troubled bloodline in whatever way he can.
Director Levan Koguashvili sets sail for a film that combines musings on the people who abandoned their country land (but still long for it), with a deceptively masculine drama about the lengths fathers go to protect their children. Yes, it is the world ruled by testosterone only on the surface, but Koguashvili drills through the armor of being a male just to prove the delicacy that resides beneath. And while the cocktail sounds highly experimental, Koguashvili juggles both these themes with sumptuous elegance and confidence.
Truth be told, he’s largely aided by the well-engineered script from Boris Frumin, and how it scrutinizes the Georgian minority living in NYC. The screenwriter paints the image of Little Georgia with unconcealed admiration, and he’s clearly passionate about the way the local community preserves the Georgian spirits despite thousands of kilometers of gap. America isn’t actually the land sculpted in success either, and in many ways, life of these foreigners is similar to their motherland. So, the Georgian community remains tight-knit, enjoying little things, and providing the necessary “cushioning” zone for Kakhi. In Brighton 4th (2021), Georgians are portrayed as hospitable, with the Brooklyn community embracing the flaws of Kakhi’s son, and giving a warm welcome to the wrestling legend.
Having the luxury to visit Georgia myself in the past, I can assure that this portrayal is all true. Koguashvili creates a phenomenal illusion that there’s no distance between Georgia and Brooklyn – the customs, the boozy men-only evenings, but also the everyday struggles and bonding over them – they all almost teleport. Also, the specificity of Brighton 4th (2021) relies on the work of DP Phedon Papamichael who blurs the urban differences through finding common grounds for Tbilisi and New York – the heavily industrial look for instance. With the harsh living conditions in the tenement houses, it’s often baffling how little of a move-up-the-ladder success can be noted among the foreigners.
Koguashvili succeeds not only because of the way Brighton 4th (2021) looks formally, but mostly because it has a big, beating heart. It all begins with Kakhi’s decision to leave everything behind – the country he loves, his wife and even his dog – for his son. Levan Tedaishvili, who plays the elderly father, keeps his performance internalized, nonetheless, we always see the emotional toll he experiences. And Koguashvili finds the most profound moments in silent stills when the two – father and son – look at the horizon, both digesting their own failures as sons and fathers. Their bond is what solidifies the film’s dramatic ambitions, and provides the soul that numerous indie dramas often lack.
What also works really well is the way in which Brighton 4th (2021) feels complete. There’s hardly a character or part of the plot that’s left without context, while every detail revealed about Kakhi or his son finds its use in the proceedings of the narrative. It matters that Kakhi’s been a wrestler his entire life, just as much as the job his son wishes to master. Even a former opera singer who lives in the community – the last role of an iconic Georgian actor Kakhi Kavsdze – and his love for singing emphasize the gravitas of a particular scene in the third act of Brighton 4th (2021). With unshaken confidence Boris Frumin concludes all loose ends in a crushing finale, meanwhile Levan Koguashvili excels through the visual language to move us. And be sure that you’ll be charmed by what this Georgian drama has to offer, because the emotions in Brighton 4th (2021) are raw.