Brighton 4th, 2022.
Directed by Levan Koguashvili.
Starring Levan Tedaishvili, Giorgi Tabidze, Kakhi Kavsadze, Nadezhda Mikhalkova, Irakli Kavsadze, Tornike Bziava, Anastasia Romashko, Giorgi Kipshidze, Laura Rekhviashvili, Stefaniya Makarova, Lew Gardner, Yuri Zur, and Archil Makalatia.
Georgian wrestler, Kakhi, travels to Brooklyn to help his son out of a gambling debt.
It’s only fitting that Brighton 4th opens with a gambling sequence considering the family at the story’s core struggles with the vice. Take the cauliflower-eared former wrestler Kakhi (real-life Olympic wrestling champion Levan Tedaishvili), preparing to leave his Georgian homeland to America (the titular Russian-speaking small community) to assist his son Soso (Giorgi Tabidze) with financial troubles under the impression that it’s related to medical studies. Upon arriving there and getting settled into the boarding house, it becomes apparent that Soso is in gambling debt to a Russian collector that’s not going to budge. Wherever Levan goes, he can’t escape a family member fucking up their finances, a frustration reflected with nuance in the subtle performance that evokes unconditional love as much as it does disappointment.
With that said, director Levan Koguashvili (alongside screenwriter Boris Frumin) is not concerned with telling the story with electricity or urgency, opting to also put a magnifying glass to this tightknit group of immigrants with an authentic slice-of-life look at the jobs they take on, the cuisine they consume, the homeland songs they belt out (one of the more emotional segments here), and the passions they take up (wrestling, music, painting, sports). This plays out in gentle, wholesome ways (Kakhi helps out as a caregiver for an elderly couple) and the horrors of undocumented women workers not receiving pay for four months. The latter paves the way for an extended sequence that threatens to transition Brighton 4th into a crying flick, suggesting a more violent side to Kakhi while maintaining calm and collected coolness.
There’s not much prying into the history of this family or why they have a gambling addiction, but the episodic storytelling structure allows most characters a shine in the spotlight. Soso also plans to earn a green card through marriage, but even that dynamic is thrown into jeopardy throughout the events here. Brighton 4th is most interested in simply following these flawed characters around whether they make their situations better or worse than in elevating the material into something charged with intensity, and it’s an approach that functions fine when bringing aboard a respectable cinematographer such as Phedon Papamichael, who is capable of generating suspense and intrigue through angles and shots. There’s a point where this group plots revenge against the aforementioned scamming boss, with its accompanying kidnapping scene framed with distance and elegance.
That’s one way of saying Brighton 4th utilizes glacial pacing alongside excellent craftsmanship and a lived-in environment to tell a story about community. Some of these elements could also be taken as darkly comedic, especially since everything comes down to a wrestling match (I suppose it’s not just professional wrestlers that decide to settle scores over wins and losses). It’s an absurd finale that feels appropriate in both the importance of family for Kakhi and the unshakable thought that a lifelong wrestler probably would resort to throwing down a challenge in such a dire circumstance.
It’s hard to call Brighton 4th great, as some characters and subplots could use a combination of depth and excitement (there’s assuredly a lingering sensation that parts of this are far more engaging than others), but as a quick 90-minute look at Georgian immigrants eking out a living in Brooklyn, New York it is fascinating to take in culturally and for the repeated gambling screw-ups. Levan Tedaishvili is quietly powerful here, especially as the narrative ends on a moving note. Come for the tantalizing prospect of watching characters work through gambling addictions, stay for the authentic look at immigrant hardships and celebratory joys.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com