For someone who’s not Georgian, Brighton 4th hits surprisingly close to home for me. Literally. Having grown up just blocks from Brighton 4th Street in Brooklyn, this independent production from Georgia gets the look and feel of the area right. Of course, that’s just one small part of this drama, which picked up a handful of awards at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. It’s also a portrait of masculinity, culture, and how we all deal with both. It’s specific, but also somewhat universal, which is what makes it as effective as it ultimately is. The pacing is deliberate, but the rewards are there.
Brighton 4th has a lot to say about what it means to be a Georgian man, but masculinity and cultural identity on the whole is played with here. A lot goes on beneath the surface here, as numerous scenes are just of large men sitting around and talking. They may be eating or drinking, but they’re really engaging in the behaviors that give them their identities. This won’t be for everyone, but if any of it sounds appealing, you’ll likely love it.
Kakhi (Levan Tedaishvili) is a former wrestler who spends his days in Georgia as a respected problem solver. We meet him solving his brother’s financial and housing crisis, figuring out a way to temporarily keep the troubled man from the streets. It needs to be a temporary solution, too, because he has a visit to the United States planned. He’s headed to Brooklyn to see his boy, armed with cheese. Lots of cheese. It’s a social visit, but not entirely that.
What brings him to America is his son, Soso (Giorgi Tabidze), though he requires his father in an unexpected manner. He is in heavy debt, which Kakhi needs to help him out with. As he looks into that matter, Kakhi interacts with a number of residents in the boarding house he’s staying in. What he finds is a lot of burly men who love to sing and fondly remember their glory days. To say that he relates, at least in some ways, is an understatement.
The performances are all layered with naturalism. Levan Tedaishvili and Giorgi Tabidze play very different characters, but the familial relationship is effectively displayed. Tabidze goes bigger, but Tedaishvili is the one with the real screen presence. When we see what he’s willing to do for his son, his quiet dignity and power are shown with aplomb. The entire cast looks the part of Brighton residents, but Tedaishvili, unsurprisingly, is the standout.
Director Levan Koguashvili and writer Boris Frumin are less concerned with plot than character. The story won’t blow anyone away, but it all feels very real and lived in. Plus, Brighton 4th looks quite good, due in no small part to it being shot by Academy Award nominee Phedon Papamichael. Having Papamichael as the cinematographer was a real get, and it shows.
Brighton 4th will likely play at a number of film festivals this year, so Tribeca is probably just the start of its praise-filled run. As long as you like loose narratives and can get behind character studies like this, you’ll find it to be quite compelling. It’s observational in the way good indie cinema can be. When it hits theaters later on this year, keep it in mind.