“Brighton 4th” Wrestles with Finding the Right Tone: Film Review

Brighton Beach, Brooklyn acts as a way station for immigrants from the former U.S.S.R. trying to make a life in America. Unfortunately, this Russian speaking community has become a kind of liminal space, where its residents are not yet part of the American Dream but are also disconnected from the Old World. Brighton 4th, Georgia’s entry for the 94th Academy Awards, explores the lives of those living in such a community and quite literally wrestles with ideas of debt and sacrifice.

Brighton 4th follows Kakhi (Levan Tediashvili), a former wrestling champion who travels from his home country of Georgia to Brighton Beach to visit his son, Soso (Giorgi Tabidze). However upon his arrival, Kakhi learns of Soso’s massive gambling debt and thus embarks on a mission to do whatever necessary to help his kin prosper in the land of opportunity. It’s a journey that sees Kakhi deal with mob bosses, shifty managers, and a frisky old woman.

If the previous sentence is any indication, Brighton 4th attempts to present a tragicomedy as the film straddles the line between wanting to make its audience laugh and forcing a kind of serious contemplation. While there are moments where the comedy shines through (like with the frisky woman or through the character of Sergo), the humor is far too dry and reserved to make an impact. In fact, the comedy occasionally distracts from the solemn examination of debt and gambling addiction.

For it’s the tragic parts of Brighton 4th that land with the greatest emotional impact. As Kakhi is slowly dragged back into his old wrestling/enforcing ways, it reminds the audience of how a parent’s work is never done; personal sacrifices are par for the course when it comes to those of familial blood. Tediashvili makes the most of his performance, as his facial lack of affect masks his character’s internal passionate and dedicated personality.

Phedon Papamichael should also be commended for his gorgeous cinematography. Specifically, the plethora of perfectly composed wide shots throughout the film help realize Brighton Beach as an inherently cinematic environment.

Brighton 4th brings the oft-forgotten Georgian immigrant to the forefront of the silver screen with themes of familial sacrifice that are powerful. However, the film often struggles to find its tonal footing, resulting in an overall work that is unable to successfully knockout its audience.

The Silver Lining

Actor Kakhi Kavsadze is electric as Soso’s roommate and opera singer, Sergo. An acting legend in Soviet and Georgian cinema, Kavsadze’s performance manages to be instantly heart-warming and depressing from the moment he appears on screen. While Kavsadze tragically died in April of 2021, his career and this special performance will ensure that he is not forgotten as a star of the silver screen.

Brighton 4th opens in New York on January 28th and in Los Angeles on February 11th.


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